Freakishly Cautious Optimism

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Tim Lincecumm’s 2014 season is an inspiration to everyone who played a game of Madden on All-Pro, won in blow out fashion, and immediately got their ass kicked when they tried to play on All-Madden.

Lincecum didn’t go to the pause menu and adjust the difficulty settings on his career, but the 5 miles per hour he lost on his fastball had pretty much the same affect. Going from someone who could touch 97 mph on the radar gun to someone who has to reach back and channel the power of his ancestors just to get to 92 is something that can kill a pitcher’s career. Some pitchers in this game only get by on velocity and big ass beards alone. And since we already know the the Freaky Franchise has the same beard growing ability as I did when I was a freshman in high school, he’s not gonna be intimidating anyone with pirate-inspired facial hair. (But for real look at that pic of Brian Wilson. I feel like he’s about plunder a Spanish trade ship before goin’ off to kick it in the Bahamas every time the Dodgers call him into the game.)

The thing about throwing the ball hard is that you don’t have to be as pin point with your location. Who gives a fuck if your late 90’s fastball is right down the middle. Even at the major league level you can get at least one of three necessary strikes with a poorly-placed fastball that comes in at a high velocity. Don’t try that shit with a 92 fastball though, cus it’ll get crushed like the dude in the batter’s box was swinging with one of those old school aluminum college bats. (PING!)

A slower fastball wasn’t a problem just because faster fastballs are harder to hit, but also because Lincecum used his fastball to set up his other pitches. His changeup/splitfinger, his slider and his curve all have the same basic movement. They drop off the face of a goddamn cliff, like when Scar Killed Mufasa in The Lion King. The game plan in the Cy Young Award-winning years was to start hitters off with a mid 90’s fastball and then mix in off speed pitches with heavy sink to get the kind of strikeouts you get when you hit X way too early in a game of MLB: The Show.

I’ll admit, that corny ass music in the video really distracts from how abusive some of those strike outs were, but the important thing to note here is the number of swing through strike outs. Sure, sometimes he can catch a hitter off guard by going with a slider in an apparent fastball count and catch batters looking, but the Ks are coming primarily on swings over off speed pitches with late sink at the end. And as long as the fastball stayed in the mid 90’s, batters of the NL were gonna stay having Freddie Kruger type nightmares about his filthy ass curve ball that starts at the knees and ends up bouncing off the plate.

The problem with Lincecum since 2011 has been his inability to change to new constraints on his own velocity. Lincecum’s days as a power pitcher are done. That in itself is not too discouraging. (Shout out to Jamie Moyer and his 81 MPH retirement home fastball)

The discouragement came when he looked like a pitcher who didn’t know what to do when his velocity left him. Now batters didn’t have to gear up for a 97 MPH fastball to start the at bat. Now they were looking at 92 MPH. A 92 MPH fastball that didn’t always have the best location. A 92 MPH fastball that hitters didn’t have to start their swings hella early for. A 92 MPH fastball that didn’t exaggerate the change in speeds to the curve ball and change up that had gotten him so many outs. His strikeout numbers went from 261 in his first Cy Young year to 190 and 193 in 2012 and 2013. The funny thing about these numbers is that 190 strike outs is still pretty fuckin good. What the high strike out total points to, however, is a high pitch count. Baseball stat nerds like myself agree that of all the “new” numbers that the sabermatricians have come up with, the quality start stat is by far the lamest. It’s a stat that requires a pitcher to go at least six innings, giving up three runs or less. That’s a pretty average start by most standards, but Lincecum has found himself burning himself out by the fifth inning, leaving very little in his arm to pitch well in the sixth inning. The grand exception to this rule is that weird no hitter he threw against the Padres in 2013.

Fans used to worry about this 5’11, 170 pound man breaking down if the pitch count got too high and Bruce Bochy had to sit and watch as his under sized pitcher log 148 pitches. Most times when pitchers throw no hitters they make it look effortless. No body made a no-hitter look harder than when he did it (with the exception of Edwin Jackson).

That no-hitter was cool and all, and it gave fans some (false) hope that maybe this is when Lincecum would figure out how to be dominant again, but 2013 was a lost year for him and the team. And then, because he enjoys destroying the Padres, he turns around and no-hits the them again. And it looked like his “Fuck Yo Hopes And Dreams” curve ball was back.

But, this was a different type of dominance. Lincecum got his strikeouts because that’s just what he does. But for one of the few times in his career, he wasn’t relying on the punch out. Even the last out of this game was a breaking pitch low in the zone that got a harmless ground out to second. If we can all take a second and forget that the Padres appear to be the only team in 2014 still playing in the dead ball era, we can start to see signs that maybe the pitcher who used to have untouchable stuff is now learning to pitch to contact. He still had six strike outs in his no hitter on June, 25, 2014, but he only threw 113 pitches with a walk. When looking at the season-long trends in 2014 as compared to his previous two seasons it appears that Lincecum is actually about to turn it around. His ERA has been on a decline since May, where it was up around 7.20. Even his strikeout totals don’t appear to be too far off from his career average.

Its too early to tell what kind of pitcher Big Time Timmy Jim will be the rest of his career. He could become a ground ball pitcher or he could use the sink on his pitches to finesse his way to high strike out totals. Whatever form his pitching style takes, if he is able to be figure out a way to get outs at a rate even remotely close to what he was doing in 2010 then he can still be a cornerstone player for the Giants. This is a team that won a World Series in 2012 while their Freaky Franchise player didn’t even make the postseason starting rotation. (Remember when all the Giants fans cringed as Barry Zito took the mound and the team finally felt like they got their money’s worth when he shut down the Cardinals in the 2012 NLCS? It was redemption story so perfect/corny I felt like I was watching a Disney movie starring Emilio Estevez.) Anyway, with the Giants battling with the Dodgers fr for first place in the NL West, some fans are going to argue that the Giants need another strong arm in the rotation to put them over the top. If Lincecum starts throwing his abusive curve every once in a while, maybe the front office can address some other needs. Needs like getting the Barry Zito redemption movie script to Steven Spielberg. Just think about it, he could make the movie in 3D so the numbers on that stupid ass $126 million contract pop right out off the screen.

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Your 2013 Bucs Were An Adorable Treasure of Derp

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I’ve been watching a lot of All-22 footage from the NFL’s 2013 season. Usually this involves me watching the Eagles’ offense and crying tears of joy that such a precious little angel like Chip Kelly would come and coach football for my favorite team and make it all so fun. However, I also take time to watch games involving NOT the Eagles every now and then. Not that I want to know anything about other teams, but just to remember how much best-er the Eagles are than every other team and how they’re going to win nine Super Bowls in a row.

But I figured while I watched these other teams I should take some time to examine other players. Just in case they want to sign with the Eagles down the road to get their share of those nine championships. My journey took me to Cameron Jordan, the Saints’ defensive end. Jordan, New Orleans’ 2011 first-round pick, had a breakout 2013 campaign. In his first year playing in Rob Ryan’s KILL FUCKING KILL 3-4 scheme, Jordan racked up 12.5 sacks and made it to the Pro Bowl.

I’m not here to talk about Cameron Jordan, though. Just know that he does wonderful things on the football field and also on Twitter, and my friend John Michael loves him endlessly for both of those things. The reason that I can’t say anything about Jordan yet is that I’ve only watched two games so far. While I watched the second game, a beautiful shooting star of ineptitude stole my focus. I’m talking about the Greg Schiano-led 2013 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Man, are they fun. At least on this particular Sunday, the team was an amalgam of missteps, bungles and bed-shittings.

In fairness, I know that all of these things I’m about to highlight are mental mistakes that plague every football team at some point (except the Eagles when they mess up it’s just the Illuminati trying to ruin Chip Kelly’s perfect plan for perfect football damn Jay-Z like why do you even care about football bro). With that being said, watching these mistakes happen to a team led by an authoritative shitcunt like Greg Schiano massively multiplies the fun. If I wrote out the number by which it multiplies my viewing pleasure this post would be considered some serious #longform journalism. By the way, a post like this pointing out mistakes by players and coaches alike is EXACTLY why the NFL didn’t want All-22 to be viewed by the public. This is why we can’t have nice things.

And here are my top 5 moments from watching the Saints-Bucs Week 2 game, in chronological order:

1. HOLY CRAP JOSH FREEMAN IS PLAYING QUARTERBACK.

Do you remember? Do you remember that Josh Freeman was a starting quarterback? He was a first-round draft pick. He was a potential franchise QB. And now he’s just trying to find a team. Fuck, dude. If you want to see some sad shit, go on Rotoworld’s page for Josh Freeman and read his player news. Go back to Dec 31, 2012 and then read up until the end of last season. Freeman didn’t play terribly in this game against the Saints. He made a few plays, but he never had the offense running smoothly for anything longer than 4 plays in a row. So, you know, pretty Josh Freeman-y. #Memories

2. HAHAHA MARK BARRON YOU FOOL ‘BAMA STILL SUCKS

So Jimmy Graham had a 56 yard touchdown in this game. It was a lot easier than you’d expect for a team’s top passing option. Let’s show you just how easy it was:

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Here we see the Saints in ’12’ personnel- one running back, two tight ends. The Bucs are in a 4-3 Under look, where the defensive line sets up away from the offense’s strong side, with the weakside linebacker (Will) stepping up toward the line. Behind the front seven, the Bucs are showing a two-deep safety look, which usually denotes a form of cover 2.

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In a typical Cover 2 zone, the two safeties split the deep zones into two. To make up for the sweet, gushy vulnerability in the middle, the middle linebacker (Mike) hauls ass back and covers any passes down the deep middle (seen here in red). The two corners and other linebackers make up four underneath defenders. Meanwhile, four rushers go and try to make friends with the quarterback.

HOWEVER, we see Bucs safety and former Crimson Tide star Mark Barron start to creep toward the line before the snap. Drew Brees notices this, and makes an adjustment, because you shouldn’t fuck with Drew Brees.

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Look at Drew, just switching the call like a champ. Let’s see how this goes for our sweet prince.

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The ball is snapped, Brees pumps once toward his right to freeze the safety, then looks back left. And what do we have here? Every player on the Bucs is running cover 2. Look at Mason Foster, the middle ‘backer, just retreating to his seam spot. Look at Dashon Goldson, covering his deep half of the field. Well, every Buc except Mark Barron. Seems that he decided to play as an underneath defender. Every Buccaneer gets a gold star on this play except for Barron. You get a dunce hat, Mark. As Barron is getting his hat fitted, Jimmy Graham is running fast. I wonder how that’s going to end up.

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He’s, uh, kind of open there, guys. And for the grand finale?

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ROLL DAMN BLOWN COVERAGES.

3. Brian Leonard’s 0-yard Gain is a Sight to Behold

If you look up this moment in the play-by-play it just reads “B. Leonhard left end to TB 38 for no gain (C. Lofton).” Where NFL history sees a meaningless run, I see a masterpiece. Let’s go back to the All-22 and my poorly-drawn lines to illustrate what happens!

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Here we see the Bucs lined up in ’21’personnel- two running backs and one tight end for those keeping count. The Saints are lined up in what is essentially a 4-3 with a bit of tweaking along the front four. Also, the Saints’ rookie heat-seeking missile/safety Kenny Vaccaro is acting as one of the three linebackers, because he likes to hit things with his body. Notice how the Saints’ two deep men are both at least fifteen yards from the line of scrimmage, giving the Bucs only seven defenders in the box to deal with.

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The Bucs run a zone to the strong side, with fullback Erik Lorig leading Leonhard between the guard and tackle. The Bucs will leave Cameron Jordan on the backside unblocked, giving the Bucs a six-on-six blocking matchup before Lorig even has to account for someone.

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The play starts out swimmingly. Look at that hole! If the tight end gets to the strong side linebacker, Brian Leonhard has an escort to the second level of the Saints’ defense. All Gabe Carimi has to do is take out Curtis Lofton. He’s got a head full of steam and the angle on Lofton, so THIS IS IT. THIS IS BRIAN LEONHARD’S MOMENT, AMERICA.

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Oh no. Carimi fell over nothing. Like, actually nothing. I watched this play like the motherfucking Zapruder film. I’m pretty goddamn sure he didn’t trip over the center’s foot. Carimi just ate shit. What say you, Curtis Lofton?

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Thought so. You could also blame Lorig here for not picking up Lofton as he came through the hole, but Lorig probably saw Carimi headed for Lofton and assumed he was blocked. Sorry, Brian Leonhard. Streets is rough. By the way: did you know that the Bears drafted Carimi as a tackle in the first round of 2011? And on that play he was playing as a guard? And he’s about to start training camp with the Falcons, his third team so far? Somebody needs to make an “It Gets Better” video for struggling offensive linemen.

4. THE GHOST OF ANDY REID MAKES HIS WAY TO TAMPA BAY

Here are two back to back plays from the second quarter:

(10:43) (Field Goal formation) G. Hartley 43 yard field goal is No Good, Wide Right, Center- J.Drescher, Holder- L. McCown.

(10:38) PENALTY on TB, Delay of Game, 5 yards, enforced at TB 33 – No Play.

Just amazing. Never underestimate a team’s ability to commit a delay of game AFTER A CHANGE OF POSSESSION. I don’t have any raw data here, but I feel like that doesn’t happen often. As an Eagles fan, I’m just glad to see that it doesn’t only happen to Andy Reid-coached teams.

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Freeman: “What? 25 second play clock after a change of possession? You sure? I still think you’re fucking with me, man.”

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He fed up.

WE NEED TO REUNITE THESE TWO MEN. SCHIANO/FREEMAN FOREVER.

5. KEEP THE BORDERS SAFE. STOP THIS ILLEGAL FORMATION

In the third quarter, with the Bucs down 13-7, Josh Freeman did what most of us would do if we played with Vincent Jackson: he threw the ball as far as he fucking could, and let Vincent go and fucking get it. The result was a 73-yard touchdown. It’s true! Look at this photo of Jackson welcoming Vaccaro to the NFL:

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Yeah, shit happens, Kenny. Turns out that play actually went for -5 yards, because the Bucs committed an illegal formation penalty. Right tackle Demar Dotson wasn’t lined up on the line. It was the Bucs’ second illegal formation penalty on the day. Football is cruel.

I harbor no ill will toward the Buccaneers players or the city of Tampa Bay. I know that these plays happen to every team. The Bucs made some great plays, specifically on the defensive side. They ended up holding the Saints to 16 total points, and the Bucs’ D scored seven themselves (while taking away a FG opportunity from the Saints) with Mason Foster’s incredible pick 6. But I like to think that on a nice July evening with friends and family, Greg Schiano starts to pour himself another lemonade. As the beverage nears the rim of the glass, these plays start to flash into Schiano’s mind. He gets so overcome with rage that he shits himself sideways and crushes the glass in his hand. Then he sends a pair of soiled pants and a medical bill for a lacerated hand to Josh Freeman’s house.

BRING BACK SCHIANO AND FREEMAN, TAMPA. BUT LEAVE THE MRSA BEHIND BECAUSE THAT SHIT IS GROSS.

 

Suits and 40s’ Guide to Getting Ready for USA-Belgium

So in less than 12 hours our boys, the United States Men’s National Team, takes on Belgium in the Round of 16 of the World Cup. It is one of the biggest games in U.S. soccer history. I am taking no shortcuts in preparation for this matchup. I’ll put this out there: Belgium is stupidly talented, and are in their Golden Generation. However, that does not mean that the United States cannot advance to the quarterfinals. While Belgium are the favorite, our boys are no pushovers, and we are ‘MERICAN. We have conquered more imposing threats than this before (whatup England). Think about this: our best player entering the tournament, Michael Bradley, has played nowhere near his ability or promise, and we still ADVANCED FROM THE GROUP OF FUCKING DEATH. We must trust our sweet prince to get reacquainted with his pressing, passing maniac form. If he can, our team is a whole other gang of problems for anyone in our path, especially since Omar Gonzalez is not here for the fuck shit in the penalty box and Jermaine Jones has become Christ Incarnate.

However, I’m not here to talk tactics for our team. I’m here to mentally prepare you for the U.S.-Belgium matchup. And by mentally prepare I mean make you ready to duff the shit out of anybody who even dares to say Bruges is a nice city before Tuesday. Look, after today’s game, I have no beef with Belgium. But for now we are at FUCKING WAR with Belgium. My goal is simple: After you read this and follow the instructions, you will see any motherfucker eating a waffle, grab it and stomp the shit out of it while you look that person right in their weakass eyes.

Now, for the mental preparation. I have found that nothing gets me ready for conflict/victory like gangster rap. Many rock songs get the adrenaline pumping, but the hyper-aggressive, violent form of rappers talking tough shit gets me ready to drop kick a cop car like nothing else. Just trust me: motherfuckers from the hood know how to make your ass get hyped up. Memory Foam innovators try to aspire to reach the softness that I embody. I am a 4-ply motherfucker. However, even if my bitchass follows these instructions before the game, I will fade the shit out of anybody repping Belgium.

Matter of fact, shout out to my ex who studied abroad in Belgium. Tell your ex-boyfriend from there he can find me Uptown New Orleans whenever he wants. I’m here all day, every day, and ain’t ever been scared of nothing. 1-7 shit.

Speaking of 1-7 shit, the first thing you should listen to is Lil Wayne’s Dedication 2 mixtape. Now is a good time to break down when you should start this preparation. Here is the breakdown:

1:17:22 – Dedication 2

1:09:32 – Get Rich or Die Tryin’

1:08:58 – Ready to Die

If you don’t know the artist for these works, you never stood a chance and might as well cheer for Belgium because you’ve already failed our nation. The total time for these three albums is 3:44:56. Subtracting that from the start time of 3 p.m. Central (We fuck with Central Time on Suits and 40s cause that’s where the realest is), we end up with starting at 11:15:04 a.m. HOWEVER, we must account for a few variables. First, Argentina-Switzerland starts at 11 a.m. I assume many will wanna watch with match audio. I’ve allotted 1:50 for that game. Furthermore, we don’t want to finish this hype shit right when the game starts. If you really want our boys to stomp Belgium, you’ll be singing the national anthem beforehand. As such, I’ve docked another 10 minutes from the plan. One should start turning up to this soundtrack at 9:05:04 a.m. CST. Start drinking at this time as well, if that’s your persuasion. In my field studies I’ve found that sobriety is inversely related to one’s volume. We need all the screaming and chanting that we can afford.

Here are your specific tips to synching the soundtrack with your prep:

“Spitter” (Wayne)- Honor one of Wayne’s hottest ever verses by watching U.S.-Ghana highlights from this year. OMG JOHN BROOKS REALLY HEADED THAT SHIT IN FUCK GHANA FUCK GHANA FUCCCCKKKK GHAAAAANNNNNAAAAAA

“Georgia…Bush” (Wayne)- If this song doesn’t rile you up I honestly hate you. If you’re not from the NOLA area it may affect you differently, but still, it is a riveting and moving song to anybody with any sense of humanity. For the person cheering for the #USMNT, just bump this shit and stare at a picture of Marouane Fellaini. If that don’t get you ready to fuck a Belgian up then you deserve to get choke slammed by Juvenile.

“Many Men” (50)- Watch Ghana defeating us in the last two World Cups while you listen to this. Trust me, you will hate them even more than usual. And then you’ll think “But Ghana got hit like we got hit but they ain’t fuckin breathin'” and you’ll hug your puppy.

“Heat” (50)- Listen to this while just listening to general USMNT highlights. Just to let these Belgians know that if “I catch you slippin’ I’ma kill you.” Also that we have a Benz with bulletproof windows, a bulletproof vest and a bulletproof hat.

“Back Down” (50)- Listen to 50 fucking Ja Rule’s life up while watching any one of our boys’ many 2-0 wins over Mexico. Or even our 1-0 victory at La Azteca cause HAHAHAHA MEXICO YOU LOST YOU’RE OUT OF THE WORLD CUP HOW DOES IT FEEL CAUSE WE STILL OUTCHERE BITCHES.

“Warning” (B.I.G.)- Listent to this while watching Belgium highlights just to remind yourself that these cats are actually really talented, are trying to win and they wanna stick us for our paper.

“Ready to Die” (B.I.G.)- Just don’t even look at soccer videos. Close your eyes as hard as you can, get a headache and let this song play and then blame everything on the first Belgian person you think of.

Again, you must listen to all of these in the context of their entire albums. If I measured time correctly, then listening won’t be a problem, even with the Argentina-Switzerland break. If I didn’t, well fuck you, I just spent 4 horus listening to violent music, do you really want those problems with me, bitch? (Disregard the thing about me being soft plz) And finally, here is how we end the listening party, right before Francis Scott Key’s true gangster anthem start bumping and we ALL sing that shit with pride.

Watch highlights from Belgium’s 4-2 win over the U.S. from 2013. As you turn those highlights on, put on “Who Shot Ya?” by Biggie. This is 100% guaranteed to make you want to carve an American flag into a Belgian’s head. Seriously, Biggie is so real. God I miss him so much. WE’RE GONNA WIN THIS SHIT FOR CHRISTOPHER FUCKING WALLACE, Y’ALL. I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN. REST IN PEACE BIGGIE AND ALSO GOOD-AT-RAPPING-LIL-WAYNE.

DISCLAIMER: Guys don’t actually commit acts of violence against any Belgians. It’s just soccer, and they want to win just as badly as we do. Belgians are good people. Also they’re super soft anyways so you fading one is still basically catching an L for yourself.

DISCLAIMER 2: Still Necessary: