All posts by Laced Up

Is it really home sweet home?

I was browsing through espn.com the other day and I noticed something. It was not the what the future Manny Machado in Baltimore or what the suspension of Robinson Cano will do to his Hall of Fame Ballot.

But, what caught my attention is that MLB teams are winning on the road at a much higher number than previous years.

I’m not here to tell you why this is the case. I’m a numbers guy. I want to show the change in home field advantage in today’s game.

Look at the Atlanta Braves. The Braves finished 2017 in 3rd place in the National League East with a 72-90 record. They compiled two more wins at home than they did on the road in 2017. Forty-two games into the 2018 season, the Braves are sitting atop the NL East. One thing is for sure, if their road record wasn’t where it is, they would not be in that position. Away from SunTrust Park, the Braves carry a 17-8 record. At home, just 9-8.

Sure, they only have played 17 games at home compared to 25 on the road, but check out these numbers from teamrankings.com. At home, the Braves run line is +1.2, whereas, on the road, it increases an entire point to +2.3.

It’s not just the Braves who are winning on the road. Overall, the entire league is having more success away from their home ballparks.

The table below illustrates the number of teams with better records on the road over the last 5 years:

(Stats based on 5/17)

What is the significance of these numbers?

Well, so far this season, 9 teams in the American League win more on the road. NINE TEAMS. That’s the same number the National League had in the last 5 seasons. In the National League this season, 7 teams own better records away from home.

That’s 16 teams. SIXTEEN.

As the season goes on, it will be interesting to see what ends up happening. I leave you with this question to think about:

Will there be more than 16 teams that have better records on the road or will decreases back into single digits?

What does a Manny Machado trade mean for the struggling Cubs?

Here I am just laying in my bed and I get a notification on my phone that says the Chicago Cubs are going to be in talks with the Orioles for a trade involving Manny Machado.

This is huge news and I want to break down the pros and cons of the Cubs being involved in this kind of big name trade.

First off, the Cubs need a spark. Badly. They have been playing very inconsistent on both sides of the game. The Cubs only have one guy batting over .300 and that’s Ben Zobrist who doesn’t play everyday. Kris Bryant started hot but is now batting a still respectable .290. Rizzo has been up and down with injuries and is batting .177. It appears as if he is starting to find his stride, and he will eventually, but for right now he is not bringing the spark this team needs.

Surprisingly Javier Baez has been on a tear. He leads the team with 10 home runs and 32 RBI’s. To go along with that he has a .285 batting average which is a big step up for him. In his last seven games he has 7 hits, 3 of them homers, and 6 RBI’s. He has undoubtedly been carrying this team so far.

The Cubs are currently fourth in the division at 17-15, 2.5 games out of the first place Cardinals at 20-13. Do not worry Cubs fans, they will find their stride they just need a couple of pieces.

Firstly, like I predicted at the beginning of the season, Addison Russell wouldn’t be on the Cubs playoff roster. To me, he just isn’t the stud player he was projected to be. He has his flashes, there’s no doubt about that, but he optimizes the Cubs this season. He is too inconsistent. He is a top 10 shortstop in the league and that is why his trade value is high but he’s not the fit the Cubs need. He’s batting .250 with 9 hits in his last seven games.

If the Cubs go for Machado, Addison Russell will be included the mix. He is under arbitration until  2021 so that gives the Orioles a legitimate shortstop replacement for the next few years without having to spend ridiculous amounts of money on Machado in the upcoming free agency.

Now, what does getting Machado mean for the Cubs. The Cubs need a leadoff hitter. Plain and simple that has been the main reason for their struggles this season. They lost Dexter Fowler and this has led Joe Maddon to experiment with the leadoff spot a lot. First, Ian Happ looked like the guy coming into the season. He was drawing walks and had approach. When he led off the season on the first pitch with a home run everyone thought the Cubs had found their guy. Shortly, Happ fell off the face of the earth and the Cubs struggles set in. Then as Baez got scorching hot, Joe thought to put him there. That was a risk he was willing to take as Baez was playing well but strikes out a lot. While his strikeout numbers are a little down, his walks aren’t going up making him not the leadoff hitter they need.

The struggle for them has been finding someone who can get on base and get the lineup going. With Machado, he is a guy who consistently hits around .300 with virtually no one in front of him in the Orioles lineup. He is currently hitting .346 with 20 walks and 20 strikeouts. He strikes out a bit, but he makes up for it with how many walks he draws. Machado has been able to adjust to anything the Orioles organization has thrown at him. Making him a leadoff hitter might give him the opportunity to become a better hitter, than he already is, and not have to do everything for them like he does with the Orioles.

It would be an interesting move if the Cubs organization decide to make that type of blockbuster trade and it will be interesting to see if Machado can fit the role of a leadoff hitter and potentially give the Cubs a boost they very much need.

What does this mean for the rest of the Cubs lineup:

This would give them the boost they need to start games off and get the guys on base for the big bats like Rizzo and Bryant to get RBI’s and find their stride. It would give the guys who are still finding their way like Happ and Contreras a chance to not have the pressure of hitting in the leadoff spot.

If the Cubs make this trade I would expect the lineup to look something like this:

  1. Machado
  2. ***Almora/Zobrist/Happ
  3. KB
  4. Rizzo
  5. Schwarber
  6. Contreras/Caratini
  7. Baez
  8. Heyward/Happ
  9. Pitcher

With this lineup it gives Joe the freedom to play around with the 2-spot and gives them a solid lineup from top to bottom with great power and the ability to hit for average moving guys around the bases. This would give the Cubs a no doubt World Series lineup, and would take a lot of pressure off the struggling pitching staff.

Now let me get into the negatives of this trade. The Cubs would have to give up a lot more than just Russell. It would include multiple prospects and most likely someone like Happ or Schwarber in there as well. The Orioles would be foaming at the mouth if they could get a guy like Schwarber to be their new DH. The Cubs have already pretty much depleted their once legendary farm system and have focused on the “win now” mentality, and they should. If they want to stay relevant winning now is crucial.

Another downfall is that Machado is a rented player. He becomes a free agent this offseason and is most likely going to end up going to the Yankees if the Cubs want to make any type of push to get Bryce Harper. It’s a big risk that they would have to take and Theo and the front office will have to decide if it is all worth it in the end.

Getting Machado would be a Joe Maddon dream come true and would give them a leadoff hitter they very much need.

Don’t get your hopes up Cubs fans, a lot of teams will be coming to inquire about Machado and I expect the Cubs and Dodgers to make the biggest push for Machado.

The Amazing (MVP) Race ft. The James’s

It’s 12:20am at the Perry Castañeda Library (better known as the PCL) on the University of Texas campus. As I am going over physics material for my test in the morning, my mind begins to wander. I have been at the library since 8:00pm. I decide it is time for a 5-minute break on espn.com and then I will get back to work.

Unfortunately, that did not go as planned because here I am writing about the 2017-2018 NBA MVP race.

So, you might ask, who do I think will win the NBA MVP?

It will come down to either LeBron James or James Harden.

Both players have had extraordinary years. Just look at their numbers. Harden averages 30.7 points per game; LeBron is just short at 27.4 PPG. Although LeBron trails Harden in points per game, LeBron is a more effective shooter at 54.8% from the field while Harden shoots just 44.8%. LeBron has Harden beat in two categories: assists per game and rebounds per game. LeBron dishes out 9.1 APG and grabs 8.6 RPG; Harden is not far off at 8.7 APG but is down at 5.4 RPG.

The KIA Race to the MVP Ladder has had James Harden sitting as the MVP for most of the season, which makes it almost impossible for LeBron to overtake the spot.

What’s the point of me even writing this if the MVP has practically been decided? Well, that is the reason.

Here’s the deal. LeBron has won the MVP on four separate occasions. Harden, on the other hand, has won ZERO finishing runner-up twice

My belief is they will award James Harden the MVP. Harden needs an MVP. Not only will it be a

testament to the incredible season Houston has had, it will only boost to his Hall of Fame resume.

However, I think the way the season has unfolded, LeBron should be the MVP.

And MVP stands for Most Valuable Player. Last season, Russell Westbrook was the MVP. Why? He carried the Oklahoma City Thunder almost single-handedly to the NBA Playoffs.

Oh, that’s right, he also averaged a triple-double. That might have increased his chances.

All jokes aside, Westbrook was the MVP because he was the best player. He lost his two compadres, Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors and Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic. That all happened prior to the start of season.

Unlike Westbrook, LeBron had to adapt his play as the season went on. He has seen players come and go constantly this season. For example, Cleveland brought in Isaiah Thomas, Dwayne

Wade and Derrick Rose at the beginning of the year. None of these players are on the Cavs roster today.

Meanwhile, James Harden has been set up quite nicely. The Rockets signed Chris Paul in the offseason and the rest is history. The combination of Harden and Paul has teams dreading to face them come playoff time.

To make matters interesting, Harden has played in only 66 games this season. If he plays the rest of the regular season games, he will have played in a total of 72 games. LeBron has already played 75 games. That is all of the games so far for the Cavaliers. He has not missed one yet. The last 7 MVP’s average playing in 79.28 games. Derrick Rose even played in 81 games when he won back in the 2010-2011 season. A player has to be a factor in almost every single game in order to be casted on the MVP ballot.

In this case, it’s not for me to decide. Therefore, as much as I think LeBron deserves it, James Harden is a lock to win MVP.

Tiger Woods Back In a Flash

If you asked me 3 years ago if I thought Tiger Woods would ever give me chills from being back on the course, I’d probably laugh in your face. I don’t think anyone could have predicted that. But yesterday at the Valspar Championship, Tiger did the impossible.

 

That was electric. Everyone there and watching at home had the thought in the back of their mind. Tiger Woods two off the lead on the green at 17 with a chance to Birdie. A 44-foot putt moving right to left. The shot predictor gave him a 3% chance to sink it. And he did just that. I thought there was no way. Growing up watching Tiger absolutely dominate the golf world, there was nothing better. Then there was the infamous fall-out with cheating, drugs and public shame. Two spinal fusion back surgeries. There was no way he could ever come back and do what he did. But once again, Tiger does what Tiger does. And he did that. This might be one of the most watched Masters of all time in April, with Phil Mickelson playing great, Tiger Woods flying up the FedEx Cup standings, and all the young talent searching for a shot at the green jacket, this could end up as one of the best Masters of all time and I can’t wait to see what goes down in Augusta.

Lebron James to the NFL makes too much sense

I originally got the idea for this from something Colin Cowherd said.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FTheHerd%2Fvideos%2F2169267403294447%2F&show_text=1&width=560

He makes some good points. Michael retired, Phil retired. Then I saw something:

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 6.19.53 PM
Courtesy of Bleacher Report @bleacherreport via Twitter, Instagram

And it r e a l l y made me think. Michael retired in the middle of his career to go pursue his dream of being an MLB baseball player. It’s no secret the entire world believes Lebron has a real future in the NFL.

He LOVES football and misses playing since his days in high school.

He’s 6’8″ 265 lbs. That is about the most perfect body a tight end could have. I bet you, football abilities or not, that if Lebron decided to take a year off and pursue a career in the NFL he’d receive a call from all 32 teams within the first 5 minutes of his decision.

Cowherd makes some really excellent points. He’s right. Everyone is always worried about the next job right away. They rarely take time to really think about what the best move for them is. The Lakers are too young, Philly would be great on paper but end in disaster, the Warriors would be a sell-out and San Antonio would be a long-shot with the Rockets and Warriors both in the same conference.

Lebron has made enough money for 4 lifetimes and he could care less about that. He’s focusing on his brand. Lebron football cleats? They look pretty sick, remember when Ohio State wore them?

Kinda nasty.

One year can make all the difference. Colin said it. Let’s see if the Lakers and Sixers continue to grow, if the Spurs and Kawhi Leonard can continue to build. There are plenty of pieces out there and moves to be made. But, it’s all about timing and right now, is just not the right time for his next move in the NBA.

Take his talents to the NFL. Don’t make the wrong move and “damage” his reputation of losing ANOTHER Finals. I put damage in quotations because it’s a bunch of BS and it’s just haters being haters. Seven consecutive NBA Finals appearances? Astounding.

Jerry Jones would eat this up. It makes too much sense. Lebron to the NFL is a work of art.

At the Top of the World: Justin Thomas

The World Golf Championship in Mexico concluded on Sunday with Phil Mickelson hoisting his first trophy since the 2013 Open Championship.

However, the biggest story in my mind is Justin Thomas. JT had won the previous week at the Honda Classic and was looking to win for the 8th time in 32 events. Prior to his second round on Friday, Thomas called his dad and told him he was “going out to practice”. His dad had never heard these words come from Justin before any round. Usually, he would say “warm up”.

After finishing the second round 1-under par, putting him at even par for the tournament, Justin was just happy to have made the cut.

Beginning his round on the back nine, Thomas played the back 4-under par with 5 birdies and 1 bogey. Justin Thomas had found his game once again. The momentum carried with him to his tee shot on #1. His tee shot of 319 yards landed on the green and rolled to 27 feet from the hole. Thomas did what he does best and capitalized by rolling the putt in for eagle. Justin Thomas finished the front 5-under par and 9-under par for the day.

The Final Round for Thomas was nothing short of spectacular. On the 72nd hole, Justin Thomas holed out for eagle from 119 yards out. This would lead to a tie between Thomas and Mickelson with Mickelson winning on the 1st Playoff Hole.

But, this story does not end there.

At just 24 years of age, Justin Thomas is the #1 golfer in the world and for plenty of reasons. In 102 events, Thomas has made the cut 78 times (76%) and has finished 31 times in the Top 10. Along with those Top 10’s, Justin has brought home a total of 8 wins on the PGA Tour.

The world-wide spotlight hit Justin in 2017. In 25 starts, he made the cut 19 times. Out of those 19 chances, he finished 12 times in the Top 10 as well as bringing home the hardware 5 times, including his 1st Major Championship (PGA Championship). With a 69.36 scoring average, 3rd on the Tour, it is no surprise of what was awarded to Thomas at the end of the year. Thomas was named the Fed Ex Cup Champion, PGA Tour Money Leader, PGA Player of the Year, PGA Tour Player of the Year and was named to the President’s Cup team.

With the 2018 season already under way, Justin Thomas has played in 8 events making the cut each time. He has 4 top 10 finishes along with 2 tournament wins. It’s safe to say Justin Thomas is back for another killer year and it will take a lot for someone to overthrow his #1 ranking.

There is hope for the Horns

Every year before the NCAA announces the field of 68 for the Men’s Basketball tournament, a handful of teams are consumed with the uncertainty of whether they’ll be invited to the Big Dance. The past two seasons, the Texas Longhorns have been one of those teams. Not anymore.

The Texas Longhorns deserve to be in the field of 68.

Heading into Wednesday night’s Big 12 Tournament opener against last-place Iowa State, the Horns have an RPI of 49 even though ESPN ranks their schedule as the 17th-toughest in the nation. Generally speaking, these 2 statistics seem to fit the profile of a team that should make the tournament.

With so much parity in college basketball this year, especially in the Big 12, Wednesday night’s matchup is no cakewalk. Iowa State might seem like a blow-off opponent judging by their below average RPI of 121, 13-17 overall record and 4-14 last place conference finish, but don’t be fooled. They have some pretty impressive home wins over Texas Tech, Oklahoma and West Virginia. They even took the Horns to overtime ultimately falling 74-70. Simply put, the Cyclones are a tough team and are not going home without a fight.

That being said, a loss to Iowa State could seriously hurt Texas’s tournament hopes, but a win SHOULD assure a room full of smiles in Austin on Selection Sunday.

How could they miss out, to begin with?

Check out the Horns’ resume. They have no sub-150 RPI losses. Add that to 6 top 100 wins which included a season sweep over Trae Young and fellow bubble team Oklahoma, homes win over Texas Tech and Baylor and a quality non-conference win against Butler. When it comes to the bubble, the Longhorns also hold two RPI 51-100 wins, including a neutral site win over SEC power Alabama and a home win over Big 12 Bubble opponent Oklahoma State.

Now, it might be concerning as the Longhorns are part of a group of 4 teams in the Big 12 with 18 overall wins and 8 conference wins, but they DO deserve to be in the tournament. Bracketologists Joe Lunardi of ESPN

and Jerry Palm of CBS both have Texas in play-in games right now, but I believe the Horns should be solidified in the field and should avoid playing in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio.

Assuming the Longhorns don’t collapse on Wednesday night, they should be part of the most entertaining event in sports. A win in the 2nd round against 2-seed Texas Tech isn’t out of reach, and depending on how they fare in Kansas City, the Longhorns have the potential to really help their seeding this week. Banking on the returns of Mo Bamba and Eric Davis, this team has shown that they are capable of playing with anyone. They have taken both Duke and Gonzaga to overtime and have come up just short against top teams like Texas Tech, Michigan and Kansas.

If they get to playing their best basketball over the course of the tournament, the Alamodome could be painted in burnt orange in a few weeks.