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Celtics Handle Cavs, Kings, Go for Fifth Straight

By on February 8, 2016 at 10:13pm

After Avery Bradley edged the Celtics over the Cavaliers Friday night with a buzzer beater 3-pointer he continued his sharp shooting against the Kings going 6-7 from 3-point range and scoring 25 points in a 128-119 victory Sunday in Boston. The win in Cleveland was likely the Celtics biggest win of the season, especially being on the road and playing the Cavaliers after they had come off a loss. It looked ugly early for the Celts Friday in Cleveland but they were able to hang in and keep it close in the first two quarters before gaining the lead in the second half. A balanced attack with Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Evan Turner, Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger all scoring in double figures helped to hold off the Cavaliers late game push. The grittiest play of the game came with the Celtics down two points with seconds left. A missed free throw from Evan Turner allowed for Marcus Smart, 6’4″, boxing out Timofey Mozgov, 7’1″ to cause a scramble for the rebound that ultimately went out off the Cavaliers. This afforded the Celtics just the chance they needed and, on a broken play, Bradley gathered himself to knock down the game winning triple from the corner.

Rolling into Sunday winners of three straight and coming off dethroning the mighty King the C’s hung 46 points on Sacramento in the first quarter en route to the win. They were in control wire to wire despite a pesky performance from the Kings who made runs but were never able to recover from the 76 point first half performance of the Celtics.

Boston is now in sole possession of third place in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland and Toronto, they are winners of four in a row and nine of their last ten. Celtics’s fans have reason to be excited with the wins and the way the team has continued to get better and play together. However, four and half games is all that separates the now third place Celtics and the ninth place Hornets. The C’s will need to continue to win with a tough schedule ahead. Boston not only has a slew of balanced Eastern Conference teams to play that will all be jockeying for position but still has a variety of tough Western Conference opponents to face after the All-Star break including Golden State, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles Clippers (and Lakers), and Memphis to name a few, those wins will not come easy.

For now Boston will head to Milwaukee to go for five straight wins against the Bucks who are losers of five straight, before coming home to face Doc Rivers and his 34-17 Clippers that have won seven of their last ten, doing so without Blake Griffin.

The Celtics should feel confident heading to the Midwest behind their Eastern Conference player of the week Isaiah Thomas who continues to put up numbers and help the C’s win games. His most recent weekly stat line to earn said honors goes like this: 20.3 points, 7 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.3 steals over 33.6 minutes per game. With the C’s seeming to play their best basketball of the season coach Brad Stevens will continue to keep their feet on the ground and their eyes on the clipboard to hopefully finish the next two games strong before heading into All-Star weekend.

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BB-Dante

Mike Reiss of ESPN is reporting that the Patriots are in talks to bring back retired offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. The legendary offensive line coach retired after the 2013 season after having spent two decades coaching in New England. His replacement, Dave DeGuglielmo, had an up and down tenure in New England that ranged from a line that under-performed at times to a Super Bowl victory.

The play of the New England’s offensive line was the biggest issue in their AFC Championship loss to Denver and bringing Scarnecchia back would provide an instant upgrade. The Patriots still need to address the tackle position, however. Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer have had injury issues and Marcus Cannon is a reserve player at best. Getting a quality third tackle will go  along way towards solving the Patriots’ problems.

Scarnecchia is a Hall of Fame level assistant coach who has routinely gotten the best out of his players. It is a major reason why he lasted through the regimes of several different head coaches and why some unheralded linemen became Super Bowl Champions. Many of the players on the roster have played under him and are comfortable with his style and respect his coaching acumen.

 

The familiarity that Scarnecchia brings to the table is a major selling point for him. He has had success in New England in the past and specifically with many of the same players that are still in Foxboro. Bill Belichick trusts him and Tom Brady will feel more comfortable knowing who is coaching his protectors. It is not set in stone yet, but it would be surprising at this point if he does not come back. Patriots fans should feel happy if he does; he won’t fix all of New England’s issues, but he will greatly improve a unit that was a black eye in the AFC Championship game.

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1. Super Bowl:

CAM NEWTON

*I have never seen a more gutless, undisciplined performance in big game history by a player – never mind and MVP. When he slid before a first down marker early in the game I knew Carolina was in trouble. Then refusing to dive after his fumble will go down as the most cowardly play in sports history. And then almost worse with two minutes left he quit letting the clock run down. Dab that – you fraud.

MISC

* Lady Gaga great voice but crazy eye liner freaking me out

* Think about how crazy this world is – Ray Lewis who was involved with two MURDERS is introduced and is cheered and then Tom Brady who carries himself the right way, says the right thing, takes less money for his team – and he gets booed (This is what Goodell did to him and his family)

* Head official Clete had the Ed Hoculi starter’s kit for a shirt

* Has to be the worst Super Bowl in its 50-year history

* The two quarterbacks set football back to the days before the forward pass (31-64

48% / 0 TD – 2 INT)

* Vegas made a killing – all the money was on the Patriots and Carolina to beat Denver Continue reading Connelly’s Top Ten: Cam Newton Submits Gutless Performance (True Colors When it Matters) »

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1. Super Bowl:

* Had to turn off any pre-game discussions about Carolina and mostly Denver

* Hate having to root for Cam Newton but can’t let Peyton Manning close the gap with Brady

* Sad when the Patriots don’t get us to February

* Won’t be nervous all weekend

2. Favorite sports uniforms:

* White Habs

* ABA New Jersey Nets

* Baby Blue Penguins

* Old Washington Bullets

* Either of the Blackhawks

* Pat Patriot Continue reading Connelly’s Top Ten: Who Cares About the Super Bowl »

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NBA.com

Winners of seven of their last eight and 10 of there last 13 the Celtics head to Cleveland for a Friday night match up with the beast of the east, the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs stand alone atop the Eastern Conference at 35-13 while Boston has mustered a 29-22 record, good for a third place tie with Atlanta. The Celtics have been winning games by putting up points, scoring over 100 points in 13 of their last 14 games, that ties them for fifth best in the NBA with San Antonio. Defensive intensity has also been a mainstay with the C’s giving up 100.3 points per game, not too shabby, and good for ninth best in the NBA, just behind Indiana and ahead of the Clippers.

Led by All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas there is no doubt that the Celtics are on the rise and coming down the stretch run will hope to continue this push for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. It should be noted however that the competition that Boston has recently played is not near what they will face Friday night. The Celtics have essentially taken care of business and won games they are supposed to win to be considered a contender in Eastern Conference. The most notable recent victories have come over the Pistons, Pacers and Bulls who, if the regular season ended today, would be in the playoffs.

Cleveland on the other hand is in a different class than recent Celtics competitors. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have had marquee wins over San Antonio and the Clippers. Changes for Cleveland since they beat the Celtics 89-77 in December include the presence of Kyrie Irving who did not play as he was still rehabilitating a fractured knee cap and Cavs new head coach, ex-Celtics assistant coach Tyronn Lue, after the surprise firing of David Blatt.

Its likely going to be a difficult environment for the Celtics playing in Cleveland in front of a Friday night packed house. Not to mention LeBron James and the Cavs will be looking to rebound from a loss to the Hornets in a game where they did not face their opponents leading scorer Kemba Walker. Instead they were torched by Jeremy Lin, that’s right Jeremy Lin who hung 24 points and eight dimes on Cleveland, sending them too defeat. Expect a fired up crowd and a Cavaliers team trying to fend off a second straight loss as the Celtics try to keep their string of winning ways alive at Quicken Loans Arena.

Key match ups to watch will be Isaiah Thomas, who is coming into the game scoring 21.4 points per game to go with 6.6 assists, and Kyrie Irving who is averaging 17.2 points per contest. However it is somewhat unlikely they will actually defend one another all the time as Brad Stevens will rotate Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley onto Irving to stifle his attack with their tenacious on ball defense. Another match up to watch will be Jae Crowder doing his best to slow down the LeBron James freight train and the carousel of Celtics bigs trying to rebound with Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson.

If the Celtics are able to score over 100 points, as they have been consistently doing, and are able to keep the Cavs off the offensive glass for easy put backs, they will have a shot of dethroning the King and his Cavs in their own castle. On the other hand, if the Celtics are forced to grind out a poor shooting performance like the game back in December they will surely struggle against the defending Eastern Conference Champs.

Its a potential playoff preview of two teams heading in the right direction, the Cavs under the new direction of Tyronn Lue, and the red hot C’s playing their best basketball under Brad Stevens. The Q Arena should be rocking on Friday night and Celtics fans will be able to see how this improved Boston team measures up against the likely number one seed in the east!

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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Behind the Dish

February 3, 2016 at 7:29pm in Fantasy

This is the start of the 2016 Fantasy Baseball Outlook. This first segment of the series will feature a tiered ranking system of the top players at each position for the upcoming season. To keep it simple, this analysis assumes a 16-team mixed-league keeper format, with a standard 5×5 scoring system, and a 22 man roster with the following position requirements: C (1), 1B (1), 2B (1), 3B (1), SS (1), CI (1), MI (1), OF (5), UT (1), SP (5), RP (4). As the title of the post suggests, today we will start by focusing on the catchers.

All statistical information is referenced from FanGraphs.com


Buster Posey (SF)

This guy is the cream of the crop and has been for years now. He has lifetime batting average above .300 against both right handed (RHP) and left handed pitching (LHP), and makes consistent hard contact at the plate. Posey is the heart and soul of the San Francisco Giants and, given his durability and ability to play first-base, is a lock for 500+ at-bats per year. His profile stands alone in the catcher rankings once again this season.

Kyle Schwarber (CHC), Brian McCann (NYY)

Schwarber is a lock for keeper leagues. He may lose his catcher eligibility after this season, but no matter where he plays and whether he learns how to hit for a higher average, he has elite power. Then there is McCann who has caught more MLB games than Schwarber has played in total. I put him in the category because he is a proven asset. Another plus: his average fly ball ratio over the past three seasons lends itself to some juicy slugging potential at Yankee Stadium. Schwarber will go much earlier in the draft because of his keeper prospects and a bullish market, so McCann may offer the better value pick of the two.

Travis D’Arnaud (NYM), Jonathan Lucroy (MIL)

These two are high risk, high reward players. They both have concerning injury histories (D’Arnaud more so than Lucroy) and the latter has openly stated his desire to leave Milwaukee. Neither of these are promising developments for fantasy owners. D’Arnaud has a higher ceiling of the two if you’re willing to take the chance, but neither are comfortable picks.

Salvador Perez (KC), Russell Martin (TOR), J.T. Realmuto (MIA)

Perez plays nearly every inning for the Royals and although his walk rate somehow fell to just 2% last, his consistent contact rate (86%) and line drive tendency (21%) over the past three seasons show the potential to continue to succeed. Russell Martin took his talents to Canada in 2015 and once again produced solid numbers. While is high home-run to fly-ball ratio last season (21%) suggests some power regression and he struggled against right-handed pitching last year, Martin is the workhorse for Toronto whose offensive output will get help from that potent lineup. This last player in this tier is Realmuto. He may not sound familiar but remember the name. Only 24 years old, he has been a line drive hitter in his two seasons in MLB (27%) and makes consistent contact (82%). On top of the intriguing bat tool, he runs very well for a catcher and a 10+ SB season is conceivable.

Stephen Vogt (OAK),  Nick Hundley (COL), Welington Castillo (AZ)

Vogt stands out statistically among these three but his struggles against left-handed pitching last season (.631 OPS) could land him in a platoon role for the Athletics this year. Rockies’ starting catcher Nick Hundley had the best season of his career in 2015 with a .300 batting average and 10 HR. He has historically been a better hitter against RHP in his career, but in the second half of last season exploded for a .915 OPS against LHP after managing a mere .575 OPS in the first half. Don’t expect a full repeat of 2015, but if he can carry this success against RHP in to this season Hundley will have a productive season at Coors Field. Finally, Castillo. He didn’t show the ability to make consistent contact last year (73%) but the 2015 ISO of .216 demonstrates his raw power. He has the potential to hit 15-20 HR, especially at Chase Field.

Miguel Montero (CHC), Yasmani Grandal (LAD), Blake Swihart (BOS), Yadier Molina (STL)

Montero and Grandal are both mid-level power options that won’t hit for much of an average. Montero simultaneously had his contact rate drop to 70% and line drive rate rise to 26% last season, which led to a substantial power increase. Meanwhile, at 27 years old, Grandal has had trouble making contact over the past three season (73%) and hits for a low batting average. He is the starting’ catcher for the Dodgers, A.J Ellis is sure to take some at bats. Swihart is in this tier because of his keeper value. He is a blossoming hitter and has above average speed for a catcher. The problem in the short term is Red Sox’s catching depth, as he and Vasquez will likely to split the bulk of the time this season. Then there is Yadier Molina. Long gone are the days of Molina’s fantasy prominence. He has proven himself a line drive hitter that makes consistent contact, but he is no longer going to provide double digit home runs. Will play every day if he avoids injury, but don’t expect the Yadi of the past.

Derek Norris (SD), Francisco Cervelli (PIT), Yan Gomes (CLE)

Yan Gomes has injury history that is worrisome, and while he has hit a lot of line drives in the last two seasons (25%), his low contact (71%) and walk (3%) rates do not show me a comfortable hitter at the plate. Cervelli will catch everyday for the Pirates IF he can stay healthy, but that is a big if. His high contact (78%) and line drive rates (25%) produce a high average but the problem is he is a one category contributor. Norris, conversely, had trouble making contact last season (75%) and exhibited a troubling platoon split (810 OPS vL, 678 OPS  vR), neither of which inspire optimism. Austin Hedges and Christian Bethancourt are knocking on the door for his duties and a platoon in San Diego is the likely conclusion this season.

Devin Mesoraco (CIN), Wilson Ramos (WAS)

Devin Mesoraco, like Yan Gomes, is another risky player. I’m staying away him because of his low line drive (13.9%) and hard-hit ball rates (19.4%) in limited time at the end of last season. He is also coming off of hip surgery. He offers potential but has a lot to prove. Wilson Ramos seems to be on the decline as well. His contact rate has plummeted in each of the past two seasons and his average ground ball rate over the past three seasons (56%) does not suggest a power rebirth. What keeps owners interested in both of these catchers is the potential power output, but it does not look promising.


Get a top tier catcher or you’ll be fighting for the best of the worst. A common theme among the is consistency vs high risk, high reward. I tend to favor consistency at the catcher position, but it all depends on your strategy as an owner. My player to target from this list is J.T. Realmuto. He will handle the primary catching responsibilities for the Marlins this year and is potential keeper who could produce 15 HR and 10 SB for years to come.

Fishing for Prospects:

Before concluding each week, there will be a prospect you should keep an eye on throughout this season as a potential keeper for your team down the road. Depending on how many keepers your league allows this portion may or may not offer relevance. Fair warning on looking for keepers at the catcher position – they’re very rarely a good investment.

Reese McGuire (PIT)

The Pirates selected McGuire out of Kentwood Senior High School in Washington with 14th overall in the first round of the 2013 MLB draft. Now just age 20, McGuire has progressed smoothly in his two seasons of professional baseball and played last season in the Advanced Class-A Florida State League. The Pirates developmental philosophy for catchers stresses defense over offense, which McGuire as bought in to. This may hinder his progression as a hitter but puts him on a faster track to make his debut at PNC Park. McGuire’s naturally advanced, high contact approach from the left-hand batters box offers promise as a hitter, and with more time to develop he could become a strong catcher in MLB. Don’t expect him on the Pirates roster this year, but down the road McGuire is a name to keep an eye on.

We will move on to first-basemen next week.

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Celtics

After one of the worst seasons in franchise history (25-57 in 2013-14), the Celtics went shopping for a new head coach and landed on a very talented Brad Stevens who was running a top NCAA program at Butler University. In his first year with the Celtics, the team showed improvement, ending up with a respectable record of 40-42 while squeezing into the playoffs.

Regardless of expectations from the fans, Stevens was surely looking for nothing more than continued improvement coming into the 2015-2016. With a little more than half the season in the books, it seems safe to say the Celtics have indeed made that next step forward. With a current record of 27-22, they are ranked #6 in the Eastern Conference with a reasonably good chance of making the playoffs. Continue reading Orlando Magic Snaps Boston’s 5-Game Winning Streak »

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