Braves Spring Training Preview

Ah, spring.

Well, to be honest, we’ll see about that.  Here in Charlotte, spring came a tad bit early.   And by a tad bit early I mean literally the first day of February.  If March decides to fight back in wintery fashion, I will have spent a massive chunk of springtime weirded out by why the weather was the way it was, meaning that there wasn’t much relaxation involved.

Anyway, enough of that.  We’re here to focus on Spring Training.  It’s underway, ladies and gents!

With that in mind, I thought we needed to celebrate the kicking off of the most hopeful Braves season in recent memory by taking a quick look at the club’s top storylines and players to watch this Spring.  Let’s take a trip down to Disney World and get into it!

PROSPECTS TO WATCH

  • Travis Demeritte, 3B: Demeritte’s Arizona Fall League performance has Braves fans thinking they’ve got themselves a steal.  (For those of you that don’t remember, the Braves acquired Demeritte from the Rangers for two journeymen pitchers last summer.)  The athletic and quick-handed Demeritte looks poised for a breakout 2017.  His tremendous upside is very much worth keeping an eye on this spring.
  • Ozzie Albies, 2B: The trade for proven veteran Brandon Phillips suggests the Braves clearly aren’t in any real hurry to get Albies to the bigs, but the second basemen should be called up at some point this year.  Albies is the Braves’ prospect to watch this spring for two reasons: The obvious, because he’s the club’s top prospect with Swanson in the bigs, and the second, which is that he will be playing for the first time since he fractured his elbow on a check swing last September.  The injury serves as a setback for Albies, who would have gotten a look at a roster spot this spring training.  Instead, the 20 year old is now more likely a September call up.

NEW ADDITIONS TO WATCH

  • The new veteran rotation members: The Braves patched up their rotation this offseason by adding three veteran starters in knuckleballer RA Dickey, 43-year-old Bartolo Colon, and Jaime Garcia, who spent the past 8 years in St. Louis.  Obviously there’s a big risk factor with these signings, but the hope is that the three provide stability to a horrifically shaky Braves’ rotation or play well enough to build up enough trade value that the Braves can take advantage of if they’re out of the picture by the deadline.

TOP STORYLINES

  • Can Dansby Swanson be an everyday player?  The Braves’ no. 1 prospect, Swanson looked solid in his 38 appearances last year.  Good enough to suggest he’s ready to become the Braves everyday shortstop, though?  Swanson is ridiculously talented, but it’s unclear whether he’s completely ready to have a full-time starting job this early in his career.  It’ll be interesting to see if he shows any signs of a sophomore slump this spring.
  • Is this the year?: The consensus is that the Braves are a year away,  but you really can’t count this team out for a potential Wild Card spot.  After the Matt Kemp trade, the Braves put runs on the board at a high clip, and a full season of Dansby Swanson should provide a boost.  Expecting Atlanta to make the playoffs could be a bit of a stretch considering their performance over the past three years, but people are really underselling this team.  72 wins as the Vegas over-under?  C’mon.  If everyone stays healthy and the rotation holds up, the Braves will be a team to keep an eye on this year.

 

Bracketology: February 27, 2017

What’s up, everybody?

You might remember me telling you guys last summer that I would no longer be posting bracketology on Noahsports, and that my projections would instead be found on collegepridepress.com.  It was a sad day in Noahsports history, as bracketology had been a major part of my website throughout its existence.

Well, folks, I am happy to announce that I am bringing the bracket back!  It will still be found on CPP, of course; I’m just posting it on both sites now, so that it will be easier for you guys to see my projections.  I cannot lie, I do miss posting bracketology here.  I’m happy to have it back and I hope you are too.

Anyway, I hope you like it!  I wish I had done this earlier, but alas, here we have it:

 

(Key: *denotes projected automatic bid, BOLD denotes team has clinched bid)

EAST

Sites: Buffalo, Greenville, Buffalo, Tulsa

1 Villanova* vs 16 North Dakota*
8 Virginia Tech vs 9 Arkansas
5 Purdue* vs 12 UT Arlington*
4 Duke vs 13 Monmouth*
6 Creighton vs 11 Cal/Syracuse
3 Kentucky* vs 14 ETSU*
7 Maryland vs 10 Southern Cal
2 Baylor vs 15 Bucknell*

SOUTH

Sites: Greenville, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City, Indianapolis

1 North Carolina* vs 16 NC Central*
8 South Carolina vs 9 VCU
5 Cincinnati vs 12 Vanderbilt/Kansas State
4 Notre Dame vs 13 Akron*
6 Minnesota vs 11 Marquette
3 Arizona vs 14 Colorado State*
7 Oklahoma State vs 10 Xavier
2 Louisville vs 15 FGCU*

MIDWEST

Sites: Tulsa, Orlando, Indianapolis, Salt Lake City

1 Kansas* vs 16 Mount St. Mary’s*/New Orleans*
8 Wichita State* vs 9 Michigan State
5 SMU* vs 12 Vermont*
4 Florida State vs 13 Princeton*
6 St Mary’s vs 11 Providence
3 Butler vs 14 Oakland*
7 Miami vs 10 Northwestern
2 Oregon* vs 15 South Dakota*

WEST

Sites: Sacramento, Milwaukee, Orlando, Sacramento

1 Gonzaga* vs 16 UC Davis*/Texas Southern*
8 Dayton* vs 9 Michigan
5 Virginia vs 12 UNC-Wilmington*
4 West Virginia vs 13 Belmont*
6 Iowa State vs 11 Middle Tennessee State*
3 Florida vs 14 UNC-Asheville*
7 Wisconsin vs 10 Seton Hall
2 UCLA vs 15 CSU-Bakersfield*

BUBBLE

  • Last Four Byes: Northwestern, Southern Cal, Providence, Marquette
  • Last Four In: Syracuse, Cal, Kansas State, Vanderbilt
  • First Four Out: Illinois State, TCU, Rhode Island, Georgia Tech
  • Next Four Out: Wake Forest, Illinois, Texas Tech, Indiana

 

Super Bowl LI Preview

What’s up, guys! Happy Super Bowl Sunday.  Welcome to my preview of the big game. I’ve been out all weekend and we’re short on time so it’ll just be a quick one, but I think you guys will enjoy it. Let’s get into it!

When the Falcons run the ball

The Falcons have the NFL’s premier running back tandem in Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman.  Both are dangerous weapons as pass-catchers and rushers.  The Patriots are tough against the run, but the primary focus for New England’s defense will be Matt Ryan and his plethora of targets, allowing opportunities for Coleman and Freeman to make big plays.  EDGE: Falcons

When the Falcons throw the ball

No disrespect to the newly crowned MVP Matt Ryan, but the key to this offense is wideout Julio Jones.  Jones, at 6-3′, is the most dominant receiver in the NFL.  The Patriots will be hyper-focused on keeping him in check, but he’s not the only scoring threat in the Falcons receiving corps.  Mohammed Sanu and lightning-quick Taylor Gabriel combined for 10 touchdowns this regular season, and as I mentioned above, Coleman and Freeman are talented pass catchers.  The Patriots boast one of the best secondaries in the NFL, but the Falcons air attack (and Jones in particular) will be too much for them to handle.  EDGE: Falcons

When the Patriots run the ball

The Patriots also have multiple options in the backfield.  LaGarrette Blount is a grind-and-pound type, whereas Dion Lewis and James White are dual-threat backs.  Expect Lewis and White to have a big impact on this game, as the Falcons’ front 7 is more suited to defend a bruiser than dynamic, light-footed backs like the two.  The Patriots should have the edge here.  EDGE: Patriots

When the Patriots pass the ball

The loss of star tight end Rob Gronkowski for the season to injury didn’t faze future Hall of Famer Tom Brady much.  The legend has been just fine with star Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, who has developed into an extremely dangerous deep-ball threat, and tight end Martellus Bennett, who has filled in for Gronk quite nicely.  The Falcons’ secondary will need to be extremely disciplined to avoid getting picked apart by Brady.  Even if they do, it’s unlikely they’ll have much luck in this scenario.  EDGE: Patriots

Who wins?

The Patriots have been here before, winning four Super Bowls since 2002 and playing in six.  Heck, Tom Brady has more Super Bowl appearances than the entire Falcons team.  But Atlanta isn’t like any team they’ve faced in those six Super Bowl appearances.  Offensively, the Falcons appear unstoppable.  The young and talented defense isn’t too far behind either, but Matt Ryan and co. are the reason Atlanta is here.  The Falcons are on such a roll I doubt that history will play much of a role this year.  It’s never a good idea to bet against Brady and Belichick, but if there is a time for it, it’s right now.  You heard it here first: The Falcons will win Super Bowl LI 28-23.

51 Awesome Facts about the Super Bowl

It’s not a major sporting event without one of my factoid articles.  To prepare you for Sunday’s big game, I have compiled 51 amusing tidbits of information about the Super Bowl that you can use to impress your friends and family.  Enjoy!

  1. The Patriots have lost the coin toss in each of the team’s four Super Bowl victories.
  2. Matt Ryan will be the first Super Bowl quarterback to wear no. 2.
  3. The 12 years between Ravens great Ray Lewis’ two Super Bowl titles is the longest gap between rings for a single player in NFL history.
  4. There has never been an all-Wild Card matchup in the Super Bowl.
  5. The Falcons did not record a penalty in their only other Super Bowl appearance in 1999.
  6. The Cowboys and the Steelers are the only two teams to have played each other in a Super Bowl more than twice (3 times).
  7. The Browns are the only team to have never hosted or played in a Super Bowl.  (The Jaguars, Texans and Lions are the other active teams to have never appeared in a Super Bowl.)
  8. The colleges most represented in Super Bowl LI are Alabama (5 players) and….. Rutgers.  (Also 5 players).  Rutgers!
  9. Prior to the season, more people bet on the Browns to win Super Bowl LI then the Falcons.
  10. NFC teams won 13 consecutive Super Bowls from 1985-1997.
  11. The lowest-scoring Super Bowl was Super Bowl VII, in which the Redskins and the Dolphins combined for 21 points (Dolphins won 14-7).  The highest-scoring was the 49ers 49-26 victory over the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX.
  12. 2016 was the first year ever that the defending Super Bowl participants both missed the playoffs.
  13. The Falcons are one of the 13 active franchises to have never won a Super Bowl.
  14. Tom Brady will be going for a record 4th Super Bowl MVP on Sunday.  He is currently tied with Joe Montana at 3.
  15. Pass rusher Charles Haley owns the most Super Bowl rings with 5.
  16. The Ravens are the only team with multiple Super Bowl appearances that owns a perfect record in the game (2-0).
  17. John Elway holds the record for most Super Bowl interceptions with 8.
  18. Raiders QB Rich Gannon tossed a record 5 interceptions in Super Bowl XXXVI.
  19. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans has hosted the most Super Bowls of any stadium.
  20. 11 of the past 12 Super Bowl winners have worn white jerseys.  The Patriots will wear white on Sunday.
  21. There are two people to have won a Super Bowl as a defensive coordinator and a head coach.  Patriots coach Bill Belichick is one of them.  Falcons Dan Quinn would join him with a win.
  22. Bill Belichick will have been a head coach in 10 Super Bowls by the time Sunday’s game wraps up, the most ever.
  23. There has never been a Super Bowl overtime.
  24. The largest margin of victory occurred in the 49ers’ 55-10 whipping of the Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV, whereas the smallest was the Giants 20-19 win over the Bills in Super Bowl XXV.
  25. The host team has never played in a Super Bowl, which makes me surprised that “the Super Bowl host curse” isn’t really a thing.
  26. The 49ers are the only team to have scored exactly 49 points in a Super Bowl.
  27. The longest Super Bowl drive, pulled off by the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII, lasted 9 minutes 59 seconds
  28. The Bills lost four consecutive Super Bowls from 1990-1993.
  29. Packers offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga (21 years 332 days) was the youngest player to start a Super Bowl.  Ravens kicker Matt Stover was the oldest at 42 years and 11 days.
  30. Super Bowl XVII, played in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, was the most attended Super Bowl at 103,667.  The smallest crowd was for Super Bowl I (then called the AFL-NFL Championship) at 61,946.
  31. The NFL/NFC leads the conference Super Bowl head-to-head record 26-24 over the AFL/AFC.
  32. The Patriots lead the all-time series with the Falcons 7-6 and have won four straight.  The last meeting was in 2013, when New England won on the road 30-23.
  33. 1.33 billion chicken wings will be consumed on Sunday.
  34. The Cowboys and the Bills combined for 12 fumbles in Super Bowl XXVII.
  35. No franchise has ever won 3 consecutive Super Bowls, making the NFL the only major pro sports league to have never had a three-peat champion.
  36. The fewest points ever scored by a team in a Super Bowl was 3 by the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI.  The most was 55 by the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV.
  37. Somehow Vladimir Putin has possession of Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s 2004 Super Bowl Ring.
  38. The halftime score of Super Bowl IX was 2-0.
  39. A complete list of the Super Bowl records Tom Brady holds: Most games played, most games started, most career completions, most consecutive completions, most completions in a game, most career passing yards, most career touchdown passes, and most attempts without an interception in a game.  Wow.
  40. The winner of the coin toss is 26-24 in the Super Bowl.
  41. Dolphins QB Bob Griese completed just 6 passes in his team’s Super Bowl VIII victory over Minnesota.
  42. No team has ever come back from a deficit of more than 11 points in a Super Bowl.  Three teams have come back from a 10 point deficit, the most recent being the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX.
  43. The longest field goal in Super Bowl history was 54 yards.
  44. Parts of the film Black Sunday, about a terrorist attack at the Super Bowl, were filmed during Super Bowl X.
  45. Only two teams have won the Super Bowl after losing it the previous year, the Cowboys in Super Bowl VI and the Dolphins in Super Bowl VII.
  46. The cost of a 30-second Super Bowl commercial was $5 million this year.
  47. There has never been a punt returned for a touchdown in a Super Bowl.
  48. Peyton Manning is the only quarterback to have won a Super Bowl with two different teams.
  49. The team that scores first is 34-16 in the Super Bowl.
  50. The game is broadcasted in 34 different languages.
  51. The most consecutive Super Bowl appearances by an individual was QB Gale Gilbert, who played for the Bills from 1990-1993 and the Chargers in 1994.  Oh, and his teams lost each time.  Poor dude.

Bonus (because I couldn’t fit it on the list):

Pretty cool stuff, am I right?

Thanks for reading.  I’ll be back shortly with some more Super Bowl content, so be sure to stay tuned!

 

 

January 12 MLB Blog: Analyzing the Mallex Smith deal

Welcome back to another MLB blog.  For more Noahsports, be sure to follow me on Twitter @NoahSports1.  Also – be on the lookout for my MLB Team Overviews starting later this month!

BRAVES TRADE SMITH FOR PROSPECTS

The Braves added more talented arms to their loaded farm system yesterday, trading outfielder Mallex Smith and reliever Shae Simmons to the Mariners for lefty prospects Luiz Gohara and Thomas Burrows.

The 23-year-old Smith had nowhere to play in the Braves crowded outfield, especially after Atlanta signed fellow center fielder Ender Inciarte to a 5-year extension.  Simmons, who missed all of 2015 and most of last season with Tommy John surgery, wasn’t expected to play a late-inning role in the Braves’ improved bullpen.  In short, while talented, both were pretty expendable pieces for the Atlanta Braves.

The return for the two are the real headliners in this deal, however.  Gohara, who was the no. 3 prospect in the Mariners’ system, is a power pitcher with tremendous upside.  Burrows is a relief prospect that gets a lot of swings-and-misses.

Gohara’s potential and ridiculous ceiling resulted a lot of excitement generated among the Braves’ fan base yesterday afternoon – and a lot of questions among the Mariners’, which was confused as to why arguably the team’s most coveted prospect was dealt.  In Ken Rosenthal’s story on the deal, he reported that a scout had texted him saying “Giving up Gohara, worst move EVER!”

Gohara does carry a lot of bust potential – medically, his shoulder is an area of concern, he’s had his bouts with control issues, and, considering the snail’s pace of his developmental process, he’s one of those big-time prospects that could flame out and never make it past Triple-A  – but the upside is that of an ace.  Gohara, a former international signee from Brazil, is very much a risk worth taking, as is Burrows.  If everything goes right, the Braves will end up with a no. 2 starter and a late-inning reliever.

As the Braves examined their shiny new toys, the trade-happy Mariners immediately went back to work, swapping Smith to the Rays for Drew Smyly just an hour after acquiring him.  It was the whopping 11th deal this offseason by Jerry Dipoto and company.  The Mariners appear to be going all-in for 2017, and will likely be a playoff contender once again.  Whether they actually make it is a bigger question.

FACT OF THE DAY

Have you ever heard of @BaseballFact on Twitter?  It’s an account that posts an amusing tidbit of baseball information once or twice a day.  How whoever runs the account acquires all of this information, I have no idea.  You’d probably find it pretty cool if you agree with me that baseball history is as fascinating as anything in sports.

Here’s the basic idea of what you’ll find on the account:

Pretty neat, huh?  I just thought I’d give them a shoutout since I have used their findings in past articles.