Tuesday, June 24, 2014

2014 NBA Draft Diary

Need that! Want that!

Tuesday June 24th - The 2014 NBA Draft is set to go down Thursday night and not only is it the most highly anticipated draft since 2003 when Lebron, Carmelo, and DWade came out, but it’s also arguably the most important night for the hometown Philadelphia 76ers since June 1996 when they drafted Allen Iverson.

Why is it so important? Well, there are a few reasons. It starts with the competence of the new regime hired by the new owner Joshua Harris. Harris and the Sixers brass are basically taking the antithesis of the Phillies' approach on how to build a winning organization and to be honest you have to admire the guts the Sixers had going through an entire season trying to lose every game they played. Maybe you say how can you admire something that sounds so atrocious at face value? But that’s how it works in the NBA. Basically since 2001, and to a larger extent since Iverson left in 2006, the Sixers have been stuck in NBA purgatory. They might make the playoffs, they might not. Regardless, they haven’t had any superstar talent on their team for pushing a decade now and if you follow the NBA you know that you absolutely positively have to have a superstar to be a contender. Even if you have two, see OKC, you still might not be good enough.

Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker

So the Sixers bottomed out for the 2013-14 season in a hope to land one of the blue chip freshmen coming out of college. In order to figure out who the best guy is, and how to get him, Harris hired Sam Hinkie as the General Manager. A nerd, an analytics guru, a guy that can’t talk to the media, a guy that has the same skin tone as Casper, a guy who probably hasn’t slept since early June, a guy that every Sixers fan is praying doesn’t screw up this draft. The Philadelphia sports radio scene won’t shut up about this fact, mostly because all they like to do is bitch, so they have to bitch about something. Does anybody really care if they hear what Sam Hinkie has to say? I could give a shit to be honest with you. I just want to see results, and after a year under his belt you have to like where the Sixers sit closing in on this draft. In Hinkie we trust.

Hinkie came in and immediately made moves that you can’t argue against. He moved on immediately from the Andrew Bynum disaster. He traded anybody of value on the team aside from Michael Carter-Williams and Thaddeus Young. This allowed him to land the number 3 overall pick, which was actually unlucky considering the Sixers were the 2nd worst team in the NBA this season. Wow, the Bucks were bad. He has the 10th overall pick from the Jrue Holiday trade. Last year, he took Nerlens Noel with the 6th overall pick and then sat him the entire season to rehab a torn ACL. Noel was projected as the number 1 overall pick until he tore his ACL and you could argue he had a better season riding the bench than Anthony Bennett, who actually went number 1 overall to the Cavs. The Cavs love to throw up bricks in the draft (This comes in handy since they are picking number again 1 this year). He also nailed the 11th overall pick by selecting the Rookie of the Year in MCW.

So where do the Sixers stand? They almost assuredly will come out of this draft with a serious nucleus of very young, talented, basketball players. MCW will be starting his second season and they will have three top 10 picks playing their first year in the NBA. There will be growing pains, but that’s where Brett Brown comes in. Brown, the Sixers 2nd year head coach, came from a long tenure of assistant coaching under Greg Popovich in San Antonio. Pop seems like a decent guy to be learning from if you’ve been paying attention to the NBA for the last 20 years.

Coming into this draft there was a consensus top 3 players so the Sixers looked to be sitting pretty at the 3rd pick. If they weren’t wild about any of them they could sit back and take whichever one came to them. Andrew Wiggins is the freak athlete with the up-side that’s higher than his vertical leap. Jabari Parker is the grown man in a 19 year old’s body who’s ready to play in the NBA right now. And Joel Embiid kept getting compared to Hakeem Olajuwon until last week. Now he’s getting compared to Greg Oden after it was revealed he needed surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot. Embiid is a 7’ 2”, feet problems generally do not bode well for big men.

So the monkey wrench has been thrown into this draft and every one with a top 10 pick (the Sixers have two!) are left scrambling in the days leading up to the draft. Is Embiid still worth taking? Is Wiggins worth moving up to get? Are you happy with Jabari Parker at 3? You could probably say yes to all of those questions so that’s why we’re going to run a live diary of the NBA Draft at the Hitter’s Count blog. Come back Thursday night to check in for updates as the players are coming off the board.

Just so I have my wish list down before wheeling and dealing actually begins here is my dream scenario for how Hinkie gets it done for our Sixers:

Trade the number 3 pick and either Thad Young or next year's number 1 to Cleveland for the number 1 pick and take Andrew Wiggins.

Trade the number 10 pick and two of the five 2nd round picks to the LA Lakers and take Julius Randle.

This would leave the Sixers with a starting 5 of:

1. Michael Carter-Williams
2. Andrew Wiggins
3. __________ - free agent X that has to be a knock down 3 point shooter
4. Julius Randle
5. Nerlens Noel

Is that squad young and athletic enough for you?

Remember in Hinkie we trust...

If you're following the diary live remember to press refresh every 5 minutes or so to see new posts. 

Posts from here down will be shown in reverse chronological order Thursday June 26th.

11:01 PM EST: The Sixers take KJ McDaniels with their first pick of the 2nd round. I'm not going to sit here and pretend like I know much of anything about these guys getting picked in the second round. My knowledge level isn't there, so let's give a recap here.

Where do the Sixers stand? 

By all accounts the Sixers were able to draft "the best prospect" in the draft in Joel Embiid but it's a monumental gamble picking him at 3. Until last week, he was most likely going to go 1 overall to the Cavs but he landed in the Sixers' lap because of this stress fracture in his foot. What can you say? Honestly, there's not much you really can say. This is not having Andrew Wiggins come in and run all over the court like crazy while you marvel at his athletic ability. This is not Jabari Parker coming in with a polished NBA ready offensive game. It's a big man coming in who won't play for months on end for the third season in a row for the Sixers (Noel and Bynum prior).

Sure, Embiid could recover fully and pair with Noel to give the Sixers a formidable twin towers defense. Sure, Embiid could develop into a devastating offensive player with an outside shot, nimble feet, and great touch around the basket. These things could happen but if anybody tells you right now that those things are definitely going to happen they are lying to you. Embiid could wind up playing 200 games and washing out in 4 years if he continues to be brittle. Or he could come in, get healthy, get the right coaches and players around him and dominate a league that isn't left with many skilled inside presence big men.

We just don't know.

As far as the 10th pick, and subsequent trade to the 12th pick is concerned, it's yet another wait and see game. Everybody and their mother knew Hinkie was not keeping a point guard who was turnover prone and couldn't shoot so it was nice to see him grab an extra first rounder by only moving down two picks. But Dario Saric is under contract for a team in Turkey for the next two seasons. I have no clue how their season's run and I'm just sitting here hoping that Saric would be able to come over here next year, but that's conjecture.

He's another guy we just won't know about.

So you basically can't even give the Sixers a grade in this draft. It's all to be determined. Hinkie did not go complete mad scientist on us and he didn't give up a ton of assets to go get Andrew Wiggins. He basically stood pat and followed his usual pattern of accruing as many picks and players with potential as he could. If you're a fan you're not upset with what Hinkie did, but you're a bit fed up on the reluctance to get better in the moment. Sixers fans just went through an awful season of tanking and it looks like this season won't be much better. There's a plan and that's understood, but the plan better start working come next year because it's getting a little old.

10:45 PM EST: I'm holding out until the Sixers make their first second round pick. One thing of note from the last bit of action was the Miami Heat trading up to 24 to take Shabazz Napier out of UConn. If anybody watched the Heat play the Spurs in the Finals you know Mario Chalmers is not getting it done any more. Not a bad spot to step into for Shabazz.

10:03 PM EST: We're taking a break here at The Hitter's Count after the Jazz select Rodney Hood from Duke at 23. Ball Screen gets to speak on a fellow alumni.

9:58 PM EST: Jordan Adams out of UCLA goes to the Grizlies at 22. Crickets at first from the panel. They certainly were not talking him up waiting on this pick.

9:56 PM EST: I miss thinkin about Wiggins.

9:55 PM EST: Last two picks felt like a reach with a few notables left on the board. Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament Shabazz Napier being one.

9:51 PM EST: Mitch McGary out of Michigan goes 21 to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The second white guy taken out of Michigan tonight. Anybody with some talent can be an asset to the Thunder and that should be like easing in to a warm bath with OKC compared to a team in turnaround. He can help Kevin Durant and company for sure.

9:44 PM EST: The 20th pick goes to the Toronto Raptors and they select Bruno Caboclo. This guys is from Sao Paolo, Brazil. Only a couple of teams saw this guy play this year. 

"He's two years away from being two years away," Fran Fruschilla. 

This is a project.

9:38 PM EST: My buddy Joe is in attendance tonight in KOP, a man who's been known to DVR a regular season Magic-Sixers game on a Tuesday night in December. We just had this exchange. 

Joe - Does Embiid play this year?

Me - Not until after the All-Star break.

We both nodded.

Get prepared Sixers fans.

9:36 PM EST: Finally, Gary Harris goes to the Nuggets (via the Bulls again) at 19. Harris was being talked about at 10 for the Sixers. Every one is declaring it a steal. Harris will certainly come in with something to prove going at 19. That's a lot of shooters for the Nuggets.

9:31 PM EST: Tyler Ennis out of 'Cuse goes 18 to the Suns. Ennis was the point guard for a team that came out like gangbusters and fizzled down the stretch. I'd have to look it up but that's at least the 4th team that's picked twice. Depth for a team with 48 wins.

9:28 PM EST: "Let's do shots I'm excited!" Simmons.

9:25 PM EST: James Young from Kentucky goes to the Celtics. He played real well shooting those lefty 3s and helping Kentucky get to the National Championship. Simmons is in on this pick. The only picks being made within the division are from the Celtics and they are getting better.

9:22 PM EST: Celtics up next. "Thanks Billy King! Thanks!" Simmons wylin about having this pick from the Nets and their GM Billy King. 

9:19 PM EST: The Bulls go with Jusuf Nurkic from Bosnia-Herzegovina at 16. This pick is made by proxy for the Denver Nuggets for the Dougie McBuckets trade. Kind of dumb the NBA makes him go up there with a Bulls hat because they can't make the trade "official". I can't comment on Nurkic's game.

9:14 PM EST: We're hearing now that the Sixers are going to receive a future first round pick from the Magic, most likely in 2017. They will also receive a 2015 second round pick. The trade now does not seem like a head scratcher as Hinkie grabs a few "assets" back with zero risk. This is all building for the future. The future's not here, but Hinkie is trying to give it the best chance when it does get here.

9:11 PM EST: Adreian Payne from Michigan State goes to Atlanta at 15. Was always a solid player in college and translates probably to a glue / bench / Tom Izzo coached guy in the NBA.

9:07 PM EST: Just a sick feeling in my stomach right now. Hinkie says not now. Not this year. We're waiting longer than this year to see a marked improvement in play.

9:04 PM EST: The Suns take TJ Warren out of NC State. Every one seems to like the pick. I'm still trying to compute what's happening with Sam Hinkie currently.

9:01 PM EST: Okay, a trade out of Hinkie, but not one anybody was waiting for. The Sixers just traded Elfrid Payton straight up for Dario Saric. Another head scratcher. This was the Sixers' 10th pick for the Magic's 12 pick. Where is the sense in this? Why not just take Saric at 10 if that's where you're headed? Either way Saric will not play here for two years. So it's clear now that if the dust is settling for the Sixers that they will almost certainly be terrible / tanking again for the upcoming season. 

8:55 PM EST: The Timberwolves, who are being held hostage by Kevin Love, take Zach LaVine out of UCLA. Ball Screen let's us know he's got an excellent wingspan and incorporates the fact that he knows every one is drinking upon him saying that. You've got to enjoy the self-deprecation. Bottoms up TWolves.

8:51 PM EST: Dario Saric goes at 12 to the Magic. A stash pick for their second lottery pick. He will not be able to leave his Euro league team for 2 years. Simmons is upset he didn't fall to the Celtics next pick as he claims he fell in love with him a few months ago at 3 AM on YouTube. Rose let's him know a lot of people fall in love on a computer at that time. That's good banter. 

8:49 PM EST: Immediately McBuckets gets shipped to the Chicago Bulls picks 16 and 19 in our first trade of the night. The Bulls trying to round out that roster and pray Derrick Rose isn't Brandon Roy 2.0.

8:47 PM EST: How did the Sixers pick another point guard who can't shoot at 10? What does Hinkie know that we don't know? What does he KNOW?!

8:42 PM EST: The Denver Nuggets go Dougie McBuckets at 11. 5th leading scorer in college basketball history. You gotta pull for Doug, it will be interesting to see what this guy's game translates to in the NBA. He can shoot like nobody's business, we all know that.

8:40 PM EST: Just reeling here. Something is fishy. It smells, smells bad. HIINNNKKIIIEEEE. 

8:39 PM EST: MCW getting interviewed in a baby blue suit. They ask him straight up if there is indication if he'll be moved based on this pick. Bold question, Cotton. Crazy to sit there and get asked that.  

8:37 PM EST: Elfrid Payton. Point Guard. Louisiana Lafayette. Confused. Can't shoot apparently. Led the nation in turnovers. The Sixers have a point guard. He can't shoot.

8:36 PM EST: What. The. F&@$.

8:34 PM EST: Glad to see the Cavs' GM David Griffin has a sense of humor. He just got interviewed in Cleveland and says he hesitated to pick Wiggins based on his jacket. Chuckling to myself.

8:32 PM EST: Jay Williams just measured his hand next to Vonleh's. I imagine it'd be like what my hand looks like next to Shaq. Vonleh has some paws on him. Next level analysis.

8:31 PM EST: The Sixers are back on the clock. Oh man. Oh boy. Oh man. Oh boy.

8:29 PM EST: Michael Jordan and his team take Noah Vonleh at number 9. The lanky power forward can shoot and rebound, in the Big 10 anyway. The Hornets have to like getting him there considering there was talk of him going 3-5. 

8:26 PM EST: Charlotte Hornets (Bobcats) on the clock.

8:23 PM EST: WOW! Nik Stauskas goes 8 to the Sacramento Kings. We have the first white guy selected in the draft.  Stauskas could sure play at Michigan but this feels like a reach to me plus the Kings took a similar player in Jimmer Freddette a few years back. I tend to be biased against white guys though.

8:22 PM EST: We're running out of guys you expect to get picked now. The Kings are on the clock.

8:20 PM EST: "The teams that passed on me will regret it," Julius Randle.

8:17 PM EST: The Lakers go with Julius Randle. We're not seeing many surprises here. Out  of the 7 picks, 6 are now one and done guys all under 20. Simmons just bet Ball Screen a steak dinner that Randle was going to start hitting 18 footers this year. He sure couldn't at Kentucky but he can bang down low. The Lakers will need it.

8:16 PM EST: Not one trade (announced) yet. Lakers on the clock at 7.

8:14 PM EST: Boston goes with Marcus Smart out of OK State. I think you gotta like this pick if you're a Celitics fan. He was a bit of a head case and his draft stock dropped this year but he's a serious talent. The Celtics have Brad Stevens at the helm for his second year and he will be a great coach for a guy like Smart. The Celtics just got better. Ball Screen says he is not too good of a shooter though.

8:12 PM EST: Simmons reveals he's having a nervous breakdown when the Celtics time is almost up with the 6th pick. That's a fan on TV.

8:06 PM EST: Dante Exum goes to the Utah Jazz at 5. Exum, an Australian, hasn't turned 19 yet and hasn't played basketball against any serious competition in a year but apparently is good enough to get picked 5 in an NBA draft. Hey, these people know what they are doing. They think. 

8:02 PM EST: Utah is on the clock. Just sittin here thinkin about Embiid. It could really work out, but then again it could really blow up in our faces. Biggest risk reward in the draft by far. So if everything holds as of now the Sixers will have taken two big men with major leg related injuries with their number 1 picks in the last two drafts. We're rolling some dice right now. 

8:01 PM EST: While I'm sitting here processing Embiid as to whether he's going to be the next Sam Bowie or the next Olajuwon the Orlando Magic make the first splash of the night. Ball Screen says Aaron Gordon is a a "world class athlete" while describing this fairly surprising pick. Most people had the young Australian guard Dante Exum going there.

8:00 PM EST: Now they show a graphic of Embiid being the best big man prospect since Greg Oden. Really makes you feel good about yourself. Man, don't need to think those thoughts.

7:57 PM EST: He's now getting interviewed via satellite. Think Dikembe Mutombo with the voice here.

7:55 PM EST: Okay, they went back to his spot a minute later and he was celebrating. Either he had a delay or he got a text that every one knows he's pissed he's on the Sixers and had to act like he was pumped.

7:54 PM EST: They picked Embiid. And I'm left here speechless after they panned to Embiid recovering from surgery in California. Is he in a painkiller haze or just so pissed he's on the Sixers?! Weirdest reaction you've ever seen.

7:48 PM EST: Oh man. Oh man. Oh man. Sixers on clock. My gut tells me Embiid. You figure it's Embiid. It's gotta be Embiid right?

7:47 PM EST: The Bucks didn't take long for this one. Jabari Parker is now a Milwaukee Buck. We've gone chalk through two picks. 

7:44 PM EST: Telling you right now I'm shocked if the Bucks don't go Parker. Which puts the Sixers right between a rock and a hard place. Jay Williams made Wiggins speak about that jacket. Can't believe his mom let him get away with that thing, she and his dad are getting interviewed now.

7:43 PM EST: Second Canadian in a row to go number 1 overall. Can you believe that? Davis has informed us that if any trades went down they have to get approved by the NBA before they can get announced. So Wiggins is a Cavalier for now. Feels like the right pick. Ball Screen just let us know he has a great second jump.


7:40 PM EST: Pick is in. Took long enough.

7:36 PM EST: Every one on the panel says Parker is the surest thing but nobody is really saying the Cavs should take him 1 overall.

7:33 PM EST: Here we go. Adam Silver's first draft. David Stern had done every one since Jordan. He gave them 5 minutes after reeling off where all the Spurs got picked. Manu went 57th. Nottt baaddd.

7:19 PM EST: ESPN comes back with an intro of Embiid, Wiggins, and Parker taking selfies with a Polariod camera. This is what we're coming to.

7:15 PM EST: Parker is wearing a Jumpman tie clip. Yes! 

7:11 PM EST: Ball screen is all over Embiid. Loves him.

7:09 PM EST: Chris Broussard talking back and forth about what's going to happen with Wiggins and the Cavs. He laid out 3 different possibilities. He has zero clue what's going to happen.

7:03 PM EST: Okay, our set is hosted by Rece Davis, Jalen Rose, Ball Screen and Bill Simmons. Simmons is who I bit the idea of the running diary off of. Like his writing or not, he's made a name for himself. We're at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

7:01 PM EST: I hate to say it but the first thing I see is the worst jacket you've ever seen on Andrew Wiggins. This kid is going 1 or 2 and this is the jacket he wears?! I sure as hell can't make that trade Dei Lynam reported for a guy wearing a jacket like this. Wait until you get a look at it. I don't even know if I want to trade up any more based on this jacket.

5:59 PM EST: Staying up on the Twitter gets you nuggets like this one on the right. I guess they want Wiggins huh? I feel like Hinkie will throw anything out there right now to keep people off his scent. Who knows what that scent smells like though?

5:21 PM EST: Pretty pumped to hear Jay "ball screen" Bilas talk about wingspan and second jumpability tonight. Drink every time he says motor, up-side, or plus defender/rebounder tonight and you're bombed before the Sixers make their 2nd pick.

4:48 PM EST: Wishing, hoping, praying that the Cavs pull a Cavs tonight. I mean, come on! They've had the following number picks in the last 3 years: 1, 4, 1. And they are still in the lottery and couldn't make the playoffs in one of the weakest Eastern Conferences in recent memory. The Cavs are bad, we're talking historically bad, so let's hope they continue that trend.

1:30 PM EST: Tell me this guy I snapped a creep picture of at lunch while taking in the USA match doesn't look like Brett Brown. Then tell me that isn't a good sign.

The guy I creeped on.
Brett Brown

12:14 PM EST: US playing Germany in the World Cup. I'm just thinking about what Sam Hinkie's thinking about.

7:02 AM EST: Wiggins Wiggins Wiggins Wiggins Wiggins Wiggins Wiggins Wiggins Wiggins Wiggins WIGGINS!!!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Leap of Faith

The Big Piece is 3rd in the NL in RBI and 7th in Home Runs.

I’m bummed out writing this.  I really wanted to get this post up following a Phils win and a series win in St. Louis. It was not to be.

The Phillies won 5 in a row this week (for the first time since 2012!) and had won 9 of 11 overall. Unfortunately, they fell flat during the second two games of a four game set in St. Louis and have now lost two straight. Despite the back-to-back losses the Phils have managed to bring themselves back into contention in the NL Least, excuse me, the NL East.

Even with those two losses, the Phils still went 5-2 on their road trip and there’s several things I have to point out as to why they may be able to make a run at this division. Individually, these aspects do not require a giant leap of faith to believe these old heads can make a run. For them to all happen though, we will need that giant leap of faith. So let’s get into it. Why not the Phillies?

First and foremost, this division sucks. The Nationals are underachievers. They have the talent but can’t seem to put it together. They have to be considered the favorites to take the division at this point, but just like every other team in the division, they lack consistency. The Braves, wow, the Braves just flat out can’t hit. If you find the Phillies offense frustrating don’t watch a Braves game. Those guys make Ben Revere look like Tony Gwynn. The Mets and the Marlins are the Mets and the Marlins. Nuff said.

Next, we have The Big Piece. Is Ryan Howard finally healthy? Bashing the ball like the Piece of old. He’s waiting on balls and driving them out to left field with consistency we haven’t seen in I don’t know, 3, 4 years? It’s a welcome sight. He put the team on his back for the 5 game winning streak and it didn’t even seem that heavy. If Howard can continue at his current pace, projected to 31 home runs and 115 RBI, the offense can relax a bit and not press because Howard’s walking softly and carrying that big stick. The Piece is also on pace for a career high 210 Ks. Good god that man can swing and miss with the best of them. Right up there with Marlon Byrd for that.

Remarkably, unbelievably, stupefyingly, the Phillies biggest weakness this season has been turned on it’s ear and has become a position of strength. These young arms in the bullpen are putting up goose eggs like we did not think possible. It starts with Papelbon being damn good but how bout the other guys? Jake Diekman seems like he may have figured it out, and when you can throw 100 MPH figuring it out should be doable. Justin De Fratus hasn’t given up a run since he got called back up at the end of May. After Antonio Bastardo looked like he may have been out of a job, he has miraculously started throwing strikes and getting people out. And of course, the Phillies have called up the righty flame-thrower Ken Giles. The rookie obviously has the talent so let’s hope he can harness that arm and become a stalwart of this bullpen in the future. Two guys throwing 100 MPH, one righty one lefty. Man, that’s gas.

Can you believe I just typed that paragraph?!? I can’t.

This is a joke right?

Let’s see what else could happen that doesn’t seem too far-fetched? I know, Cliff Lee will come back and be Cliff Lee. We’ve heard reports that Cliff is “long tossing” and “throwing off a mound” and conducting a “normal bullpen”. There haven’t been any set-backs. Let’s say worst case Cliff starts the first game after the All-Star Break. If the Phillies can continue to stay within earshot of whoever is leading this crap division, when Lee comes back to this rotation you have to believe his presence will provide a serious jolt of energy.

Another bonus / upgrade to the lineup is the return of Cody Asche. Here’s another sentence I can’t believe I’m typing but I enjoyed the Reid Brignac era. The guy got some big hits. The guy played really hard (as evidenced by how he got injured). And he just did a solid job filling in. Having said that, the Phillies scored 3 runs today and they all came on a bases clearing double from Cody Asche. Asche is one of the few position players on the team that has a chance to be on the team in 5 years, so it would be nice to see him continue to develop as a fielder and a hitter. There’s potential in that bat.

Lastly, and this may be the biggest leap of faith but Dom Brown is the hinge in this line up as my friend John Gallagher likes to point out. If you go Revere, Rollins, Utley, Howard, Byrd to start your lineup that’s a lineup you can hang your hat on. You know what you’re going to get out of those guys and they are all capable of solid work with the bat. Dom Brown has just been crap all season and it needs to change. If he finishes the season continuing to pal around with Luis Mendoza then the Dom Brown era may have to come to an unceremonious end. If he can somehow manage to start hitting the ball, and hitting the ball with power a little bit, the Phillies lineup could really start to churn out some runs. I don’t know that Dom is capable but I’d like to think he could hit 250 for the remainder of the season.

Well, that’s my argument. Is it too much to ask? Almost certainly. Is this crappy division holding Ruben up from blowing this team up and starting the rebuilding process while we can still get decent assets for the old regime? Almost certainly. Whatever, I say let it ride with Jimmy, Chase  and Ryan if they have a chance to win the division (Less than let’s say 6 out with a week before the trade deadline). There’s a reason all these guys still play for the Phillies. Let’s see if they can make it count.

Why not?

The MCW Shooting Challenge

Range is what we call this.

A week or so ago I was perusing the stats of the Sixers standout rookie Michael Carter-Williams. I knew the lanky rookie of the year had some pretty impressive numbers. For instance, he’s one of three rookies to average at least 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. The other two men to accomplish that feat are Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson. That’s remarkable company to keep.

MCW did have a bit of an issue shooting the basketball from deep though. I looked it up. There was only one guy who took more than 200 3 pointers this season who shot as bad as MCDubs from beyond the arc. Carter-Williams took 208 and made a rather depressing 55 of those attempts for a 26.4%. Only Josh Smith, a notorious chucker of clanking 3s, and miraculously Celtics big man Jared Sullinger had comparable numbers. Sullinger was almost the exact same at 56-208, and Smith, wow, you’d think Smith would learn but he doesn’t. Josh Smith went an incredible 70-265. His coach’s head must’ve exploded a good 265 times this year because Smith clearly doesn’t understand that a shot that goes in 26.4% of the time is not a good shot.

So why am I telling you all of this? Well it just so happens that the lone thing I can do competently on a basketball court is shoot the ball from distance. It’s quite the conundrum, my chances of making a shot literally dwindle as I get closer to the basket. Worst player you’ve perhaps ever seen try to make a lay-up with as much experience as I have. The 3 ball though. The 3 ball is a different story. I’ve always been able to knock down long-range shots. I don’t have enough athleticism to get myself open a lot of the time and the guys I play with know I can shoot a bit so I was rarely allowed an open look from close to the 3 point line. Out of necessity, I started to back up and push out the limits of my range to launch 3s from NBA distance just because guys were willing to give me that open look.

So when I saw that Michael Carter-Williams had some pretty ugly numbers I sniffed out a challenge with my good friend Andrew Eisenhart. The $50 bet was made that out of 200 attempts I could knock down better than 25% of 3s from NBA range. Quite the large amount of shit talking ensued around the bet.

Can I really shoot 200 3s without dying?

Should Drew have to match my number since he considers himself a better shooter than me?

Why should I have to travel to West Philly (where Drew lives) since I’m the one who created the MCW Shooting Challenge?

This court better have single rims, double rims would be brutal.

I sent an email out to quite a few of my friends letting them all know they were cordially invited to the MCW Shooting Challenge. My friend and official handicapper of all action replied with the following lines regarding my chances in the MCW Shooting Challenge.

I believe the opening line is Team Riley -180, Team Drewbacca +130.

If you're into spreads, well we got you covered!
Riley Shots Made over 47 (Ryes +3 spread) @ -280.
Riley Shots Made over 53 (Ryes -3 spread and to actually beat MCW's %) @ -110.

You can see from the spreads vegas thinks it'll be close.

We are also offering several props that have been getting action.

Longest Make Streak: o/u 6.5 @ -110
Longest Miss Streak: over 13.5 @ -135, under 13.5 -105
First 100 shots: over 29.5 makes -125, under 29.5 @ +105
Alex punts the basketball and takes his shirt off: -200 (action only if loss on main line)
Abbs pays more attention to the contest than Aves: +200
# times Drew quotes Caddyshack or White Men Can't Jump: over 10 (-10,000), under 10 (plus infinity)

All lines subject to change based on action and weather.

There was a lot of action on the streaks. We’ll get to that, but it was nice to see I was a favorite going in.

So parameters were laid down. I would not be able to take more than a one minute break more than three times. I would have to hit 51 or more 3s to win the bet. 50 was a push, 49 or less was a loss. A park was selected, much to my chagrin, in West Philadelphia (born and raised). And a time was decided upon – 10:30 AM Saturday morning.

So Saturday morning me, my future wife Abigail, and daughter Avery traveled to Clark Park at 43rd and Baltimore to conduct the MCW Shooting Challenge. Drew brought his tape measure and chalk to make sure I was chucking from distance. My buddy Matt also came for moral support and rebounding. The stage was set after we waited for two young bucks to finish a game of one-on-one.

I had practiced two different sets of 100 3s during the week and felt decent but not great about the fact that I had hit 28 of 100 during both those practice sessions. Somewhere Allen Iverson shakes his head. So we got started with Drew and Matt (in a Lakers Nick Van Exel jersey) rebounding while the ladies watched from the sideline.

I got off to an inauspicious start hitting 5 of my first 20 shots. Twenty-Five percent was right on pace but I certainly wanted to build myself a cushion figuring that I had to tire out in the second half of the MCW Shooting Challenge.

After the first 20 shots I took off. If it was NBA Jam the ball may have caught fire for a bit. By the time I was 50 shots through I had made 20 for a highly respectable 40% and was 15 for my last 30. I didn’t cool off much from there as I finished my first 100 shots with 40 makes and the challenge was all but over. I have to tell you I took quite a bit of enjoyment letting them fly, yelling “GOOD!” a la Prince in Chappelle’s Show and watching Drew follow the ball through the basket and put his head down as he sent me back another pass.

3 outta 5 aint bad

I forget what number shot exactly I hit my 51st but it was well before 150 attempts. I kept going, following through on taking all 200 3s. My second 100 I still managed a solid 33 out of 100 for a grand total of 73 for 200 and 36.5 percent.

This was an utter shellacking and Drew took the walk to the ATM. Imagine that, being so confident you don’t even come to the bet with money and losing by a whopping 24 makes.

As for the streaks:

The most missed in a row was clocked at 9 – UNDER

There was enough action on the UNDER of the makes streak that it actually moved to 5.5 prior to the MCW Shooting Challenge.

I did get down 5 in a row but that still did not hit the over – UNDER

This challenge will undoubtedly go down as one of my top 5 sporting moments and certainly the first since I played organized sports. It also gives me solid bragging rights and reasons to give Drew a hard time which is something I enjoy almost as much as taking long 3s.

Thanks for staying with me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cole Hamels has been Dominant

If he could buy a win, he'd certainly have the money.

Cole Hamels was robbed of a win for the umpteenth time in his career last night when Jonathan Papelbon blew just his second save of the year. The Phillies did win the game in the 13th inning, and somehow, miraculously, they are only 5.5 games back of the first place Atlanta Braves who obviously have some offensive issues of their own. Very quietly, since he can’t seem to get any run support, and the Phillies just aren’t any good period, Hamels is putting together one of his better seasons at this point.

Hamels was lifted after seven innings in last night’s tilt against the Braves and he left with a 1-0 lead thanks to a Ryan Howard home run. Blanking the opposition has become a habit for Cole over his last three starts, his scoreless streak now stands at 24.1 innings. His raw
 numbers have not been the only impressive thing as he has been able to work out of jams and keep his hitting challenged teammates in ballgames they probably should not be in.

For instance, last night Hamels gave up a leadoff single to known Phillie killer Evan Gattis in the 6th inning. The next batter, Justin Upton, squared and bunted foul on the first pitch of the at bat. Now, Justin Upton is far and away the Braves best hitter so this was pretty surprising to see.  The very next pitch Hamels left a changeup  up in the zone and Upton laced a double down the left  field line, second and third no outs. Hamels proceeded to hit the next batter to load the bases with no outs. A sometimes flappable Hamels was unflappable last night. He got 2nd baseman Tommy La Stella to line out to 3rd base and then induced an inning ending 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Andrelton Simmons.

Hamels preserves the slim 1-0 lead. This is what we call earning your paycheck. And when your paycheck adds up to more than $20 million a season it’s nice to see because there are guys on this team not exactly pulling their weight when it comes to massive contracts. I won’t mention any names but his initials are Ryan Howard.

Obviously, Cole did not start the season how he wanted to, on the disabled list. And then he struggled through his first three starts and boasted a 7.02 ERA heading into his 4th start of the season against his known nemesis the New York Mets. Since that 7 inning, career-high 133 pitch, 10 strikeout effort against the Mets (The game Papelbon wouldn’t come into and the Phils bullpen blew), Hamels has been downright dominant.

Including that game here are the pertinent stats for Hamels last 8 starts:

@ NYM – 7 IP – 1 ER – 3 BB – 10 K – 133 pitches

Vs CIN – 7 IP – 1 ER – 2 BB – 10 K – 90 pitches

@ MIA – 7 IP – 3 ER – 1 BB – 6 K – 91 pitches

Vs COL – 7 IP – 4 ER – 2 BB – 4 K – 99 pitches

Vs NYM – 7 IP – 1 ER – 4 BB – 8 K – 125 pitches

@ CIN – 7.2 IP – 0 ER – 2 BB – 7 K – 125 pitches

Vs SD – 8 IP – 0 ER – 1 BB – 11 K – 115 pitches

@ ATL – 7 IP – 0 ER – 2 BB – 6 K – 94 pitches

Here’s to not jinxing it, but in an era where it is mandatory to have Tommy John surgery if you throw 130 pitches in a game I find it refreshing that Hamels is out there battling well past the century mark. When did this become a thing? Why are starting pitchers coddled so much these days and still having worse injuries than they ever had before? Nolan Ryan, Bob Gibson, and certainly Larry Andersen have to either laugh or throw up about how pitchers these days lack durability. Why have pitchers made strides backwards when it comes to being durable? It’s mind boggling. 

Aside from some high pitch count games you should have also noticed that Hamels has pitched through the 7th in 8 straight games and 7 of those 8 have been quality starts.* In a season that has been written off in early June, having Hamels still display why he deserved that $146 million contract has to provide some solace for Phillies fans.

As it stands, Cole currently has a 2.78 ERA which is good enough for 10th in the National League and would be his career low by .01. His current rate of 9.2 strikeouts per 9 innings would be the second best of his career, 7th in the NL, and his best since his rookie season when he struck out 9.9. His home runs allowed per nine inning rate currently stands at .5, also 7th in the NL, and would be half his career rate of 1.0 and by far a career low (career high?). So yes, if he stays healthy and continues to pitch at this current rate, regardless of his win-loss record, Cole Hamels could be having the best season of his career. Maybe the Phillies can score some runs and/or not blow the games he leaves with the lead. He deserves better than that 2-3 record he’s amassed over 11 starts.

* A quality start is a minimum of 6 innings pitched and a maximum of 3 earned runs.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Fundamentally Flawed

Meet the Mets! Greet the Mets!
Step right up and get beat 8 out of 9 at home by the Mets!

Tim Duncan is headed to his 6th career NBA Finals this week, and he has been a methodical superstar since the moment he entered the league coming out of Wake Forest. People complain that the Spurs and his game are boring, but all they do is win. Duncan’s nickname is even boring; The Big Fundamental. You know what’s not boring though? Going to 6 finals in your career. Timmy and the Spurs get it done because not only are they talented, but they do the little things right that you need to win games. They are fundamentally sound. This is the opposite of the current Philadelphia Phillies.

I keep replaying several putrid baseball plays in my head from over the weekend and I just can’t get over it. I need to put the Phillies down and walk away for a few days because if you’re a fan right now it’s a combination of emotions. Disgust followed by indigestion, followed by hatred, followed by dumbfoundedness, and hopefully at some point that will all lead to apathy for me.  Just not yet. It’s a shame because the Big Piece might finally be hot and it’s going for naught.

Much to the chagrin of my fiancĂ©, I have been consumed by the Phillies of late. The tide is starting to turn though, you can only put up with so much incompetence jammed into a weekend. I didn’t think I was going to write anything about this god-awful Mets series (that miraculously still isn’t over after 48 innings and 4 games), but after reading the quotes from the suspects today I can’t bite my tongue.

It’s just insane the amount of opportunities this bad baseball team squandered over the course of two days. The only reason the Phils haven’t lost four straight in this five game series with the Mets is because the Mets’ right fielder dropped a pop up to start the 14th inning.  Otherwise, we’d be on Sandberg suicide watch.

Let me set the scene for you on a couple of jaw-dropping bad and or dumb plays from over the weekend.

Ben Revere had a weekend that frankly, I wouldn’t mind if he got cut for, except for the fact that he’s our second best outfielder. Revere finally hit his first career home run after 1400+ at bats this past week but the fun stopped there. He is a speedster and that’s the only thing good he is known for. As a speedster, you should be really good at bunting. Ben Revere is not. That fact is maddening. Twice in a row Saturday he failed to get a bunt down including once in the 12th inning. Bad fundamentals.

Let’s see, what else did Ben do? With 1 out and the Phils trailing by a run in the bottom of the 8th Revere tripled to the right center field gap. That’s a big hit in a big situation. The Mets brought in the infield and Jimmy Rollins hit a grounder to 2nd baseman Daniel Murphy, who bobbled it and threw Rollins out at first. Revere stood there like a deer in headlights. Maybe this was on Sandberg, maybe this was on Revere, but with by far your fastest player at 3rd base 90 feet away from tying the game you have to go on contact there. Bad decision-making.

The next scene was comical. After Rollins grounded out for the 2nd out, Chase Utley walked on 4 pitches and he took issue with Revere.  He was pretty upset with the speedy center fielder and his lack of a secondary lead at third base following pitches. Obviously, The Man would be looking to score on a wild pitch in that situation to tie up the game but Revere was busy dicking around and staying close to the bag. Meanwhile, Utley is wildly waving his arms and motioning for Revere to take a bigger lead. You have to shake your head at this. Bad fundamentals.

Okay, the next two things are what have me really fired up.

Cole Hamels had just left the game after an effective 7 inning performance in which he struck out 8 and threw 128 pitches. He allowed just 2 runs, 1 earned. In the bottom half of the inning Dom Brown pinch-hit for Hamels with Cesar Hernandez standing on 2nd base. I’ll be damned if Dom didn’t come through with a clutch line drive base hit to left field. That’s where things went off the rails.

Since the ball was hit hard, Hernandez held up at 3rd as the throw went past the cutoff man and straight to the catcher. At this point, Dom was lazily running down the first baseline and just when he made his turn he could survey the action and see the throw was going through and that Hernandez was stopping at 3rd.

Now let’s think here. The game is tied. There’s 1 out. There’s a man in front of Dom Brown on the base paths. Does it really matter if Dom makes it to 2nd in that situation? An insurance run would be nice but the go-ahead run is imperative, so the answer to that question is no.

Nevertheless, he charged toward 2nd base and was at the very least, 50 feet from 2nd base when the ball arrived there. From there he made very little effort to get in a rundown and was tug out immediately. This play was incomprehensibly bad. I can’t put it into words. Mind-blowingly bad. You should have seen the stink eye Juan Samuel, the 1st base coach, was laying on Brown as he slowly walked past him on his way to the dugout. Yikes!

To add insult to injury here is the quote from Dom Brown on the play, “I think I made the right read, the only thing is I should have stayed in the rundown a little longer, see what can happen with maybe a bad throw, maybe Cesar can score on that. That was pretty much it.”

I can’t say this with enough venom, “MADE THE RIGHT READ?!?!”

What planet is Dom Brown living on that he thinks he made the right play in that situation? Where is the accountability? Where is the part where you stand up for yourself and admit that you made a bad play? I can’t get over it and I will not get over it. This quote to me means that Dom Brown has officially lost any chance to be a good baseball player. His mentality is that of an imbecile if this is what he thinks. I’ve had a bad case of loser denial once or twice myself Dom, but this takes the cake. At least Ryno singled Dom out and said this was a bad play. We’d have to check him for a pulse if Dom wasn’t getting thrown under the bus by somebody with some authority on this team. Bad fundatmentals.

On to the next one. Cole Hamels threw 128 pitches in 7 innings as mentioned earlier. John Niese, yesterday’s starter, threw 91 pitches in 8 innings. That’s bad enough at face value, but here’s another direct quote that is just staggeringly awful to me. This time from Sandy himself, he was “satisfied” with his team’s aggression early in counts according to his post-game remarks.

“He’s a strike thrower (referring to Niese). He’s a quality lefthander. He establishes the zone and doesn’t walk many guys.”

This just in, if you’re swinging early in counts it’s tough to draw walks. I’m just struggling to understand the thought process here though. Was Sandberg managing the prior two games in which both his and the Mets’ bullpens were completely decimated? Did he not have any interest in getting to somebody in the Mets’ bullpen the equivalent of Phillipe Aumont (who I won’t even get started on)? Why would the gameplan not be let’s make this starter work as much as possible and get to a bullpen that’s been run ragged the past two days? 

Does that plan make too much sense? Is there too much logic involved? I just don’t get that mentality and way of thinking. I would love for somebody to explain it to me. 
Bad decision-making.

The Phillies are not a good baseball team. That’s the bottom line in all of this. Sorry for the negative venting but sometimes that’s all there is.

Silver Linings Playbook:

Ryan Howard has homered 4 times in the last 11 games while knocking in 16 runs. He is now 3rd in the NL with 39 RBI and tied for 9th with 11 home runs.

The Braves swept the Marlins and they're still only 6 games up on the hapless Phillies.

The Phils go on the road to DC this week to take on the Nationals. They are 500 on the road and crap at home.  SOB.