Thursday, September 29, 2011

MLB Playoff Predictions

With the regular season under wraps, it is time for The Sports Vibe's MLB playoff predictions:

Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees
Winner: Detroit Tigers
I'm picking the underdog for this one. Yes, the Yankees have the more potent offense, but the postseason is all about pitching. 2 of the last 3 World Series champions have gotten there by way of their pitching. In this era of baseball, pitching wins games. Looking at the probable pitching matchups in this series, Justin Verlander is better than CC Sabathia, Doug Fister (who's been lights out for the Tigers since the trade) trumps Ivan Nova, and Max Scherzer vs Freddy Garcia is a toss up. That's two very winnable games for the Tigers, who have a well rounded lineup to match their pitching staff with Miguel Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, and Alex Avila. This series, In my mind, goes to Los Tigres.

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers
Winner: Texas Rangers
The Rays find themselves lucky to be in this position after the historic collapse of the Boston Red Sox. However, they will meet their match in the Texas Rangers, who possess one of the most well rounded teams in the postseason. Their lineup features the superhuman Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler, and Elvis Andrus. Their rotation is solid as well, with starters CJ Wilson and Derek Holland leading the way. And with the trade deadline deals the Rangers pulled off this year, they are looking like the team to beat in the AL.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

On the Niners' Bandwagon

I watched the second half of the 49ers-Bengals game and I have to admit, I'm pretty impressed by this 49ers team this year. They controlled the Seahawks game in the opener (thank you Ted Ginn) and put up a fight and even almost won against the Cowboys. And then, to emerge victorious out of a sloppy, defensive slugfest against the Bengals says a lot about how the team is different from years past.

Jim Harbaugh has truly energized this team. He understands that the most important player on any team is the quarterback, and he has set up the playbook to fit Alex Smith's game. He hasn't employed the ground and pound Singletary scheme or the defensively oriented Nolan scheme. He is using Smith's intellectual capacity and putting it to good use.

Past coaches never seemed to understand what to do with this team or how to utilize its strengths, but Harbaugh does. Harbaugh mixes up the tight end packages and takes advantages of the physicality of Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker, one of the best tight end tandems in the league. He gives downfield looks to Michael Crabtree, Braylon Edwards, and Ted Ginn, three of the league's best speedy downfield threats. And he understands when to use Frank Gore, the downhill runner, and Kendall Hunter, the shifty, elusive style back.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

NCAA Conference Realignment

There's a whole lot of buzz currently surrounding conference realignment in college football. Just yesterday, Syracuse and Pittsburgh were both accepted into the ACC, signaling the disintegration of the Big East and indicating further progress toward the creation of the so-called superconferences. There's no question that the superconferences will completely change the landscape of college sports. The question is whether or not that change would be good or bad.

I'm not entirely opposed to the idea, but I'm not exactly sure why the superconferences would be necessary. The system that is currently in place works fine. See my September 1st blog post exploring the BCS system here. I don't see anything wrong with the BCS right now, apart from the fact that it ignores the second-tier non Big Six teams. But even that inattention is not unfounded: only a few teams from non-AQ conferences have gone undefeated in the past 10 years (TCU, Boise State twice, and Utah twice). 

So, if the current system works pretty well, then why are these superconferences necessary? The answer is not animosity toward the system; it all has to do with greed. In most conferences, including the ACC, Pac 12, and SEC, all schools receive an about-equal share of revenue. However, in a conference like the Big 12, revenue is split based on television deals and media exposure. That's why Texas earns $93.9 million from football while Baylor earns $14.3 million. It's no wonder Texas A&M wants to leave the Big 12 to a conference where it can poach the earnings of programs like Florida, Alabama, and Auburn and it's no wonder that Baylor is trying to stop them at all costs. Every school wants to be in the best financial situation possible for their football program.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Great Weekend for Bay Area Football...

This weekend was truly a great weekend for Bay Area football. The 49ers won their game against the Seahawks, largely due to Ted Ginn's kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns. Stanford dominated Duke, and although the score was closer than expected, the game emitted good vibes. And finally, Cal emerged victorious out of their first conference test of the season.

The 49ers game was not pretty, but I enjoyed it. I felt like Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman ran far too much on third down (c'mon, show a little faith in your quarterback, why don't you?), but with Alex Smith at the helm it was understandable. I actually think Smith has a chance to shine this year. He has a pretty good receiving core with Edwards, Crabtree, and Morgan, as well as two solid tight ends in Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker. He also has an above average run game to depend on. Not all of the pressure is on him this year, and his coaching staff is much more offensive-oriented, so Smith has a great opportunity to live up to the expectations that come with being the #1 overall pick.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

To my beloved San Francisco Giants...

I'm sorry. I'm sorry it didn't work out this year. This year was just not meant to be the year. You couldn't replicate last year's magical run. I'm sorry.

Ever since that momentous Wednesday in May where your star catcher, Buster Posey, was severely injured in a home plate collision, the future has looked bleak. But you hung on, sticking with your plan of great pitching and just enough hitting and were able to remain in the thick of things for a while. But now, I declare it over. There is no hope. Losing that series against the Diamondbacks was the final straw. You are 7 games out with 22 games left to play, and Arizona shows no signs of relenting.

Sometimes luck plays a huge part in determining a team's fate and that is the story this year. Injuries have devastated the roster. Posey suffered a season-ending leg injury. Freddy Sanchez, your most consistent hitter this season, dislocated his shoulder in June. Pablo Sandoval missed four weeks in April with a broken hamate bone. Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez both have gone through injury-plagued seasons, hurting the rotation's overall effectiveness. Carlos Beltran, the man who was supposed to save the season, felt the wrath of the Giants' injury curse as well, injuring his hand shortly after joining you and missing a couple weeks.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The BCS Debate

Today, Thursday, September 1st, marks the start of the 2011 college football season and I have never been more excited. I love college football, even more than the NFL, because the players are not playing for money and many likely will not turn into star football players. The biggest stars are often the littlest stars, the underdogs with no 5-star recruits and no star players who end a powerhouse program's BCS Championship hopes with one game. As the season progresses, all but a few schools fall like bowling pins, week by week, until two, maybe three, remain undefeated at the end of the season. And it is these teams, the ones who were able to withstand blow after blow for an entire season, that earn the right to play for the BCS Championship. There is nothing else like a college football season.

But the debate keeps growing: is this the right way to crown a national champion? Is it fair to not allow each team to have a shot at the championship despite one mishap in one game during the season? I think it is. One thing is for certain, the current system certainly makes the regular season relevant. Take a look at college basketball. Does anyone pay attention to it until March? Not really. The only thing that people care about in college basketball is the postseason tournament. It essentially renders the regular season worthless.