Cleat Geeks

2017 College Football American Conference (East Division) Preview

Every College Football season, each team from each conference has a major question that circles around the preseason progress of their potential success. Every year, the American Conference is one of the top conferences competing outside the power 5 (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC-12 and SEC). Don’t let the label fool you in terms of how legitimate a team from the AAC is. The East division is filled with teams that have defeated and or shocked a power 5 conference team. Last year alone, the Cincinnati Bearcats beat Purdue (Big Ten), UConn beat Virginia (ACC) and the East Carolina Pirates beat Syracuse (ACC). This year, each team is aiming for bigger and better teams. The South Florida Bulls are a team from a non-Power 5 conference have the highest potential to make the playoffs. This is a very competitive division, however, each of these teams are looking to win the American Conference and go to either the playoffs or a New Year’s Six Bowl Game. Here are the biggest questions that each team will be facing in the upcoming 2017 College Football season.

 

Central Florida Knights – “After a major rebuild, will the Knights be back in the divisional title fight?”
6-7, 4-4 in American in 2016

The UCF Knights were one of the top teams in the Big East and the American Conference under Head Coach George O’Leary. They were co-Conference champs in the 2014 season and then suffered a 0-12 collapse in 2015 that forced O’Leary to resign. After a huge rebuilding season last year, the Knights are now ready to compete with some of the top teams in the conference. The good news is that the Knights return 9 offensive starters and OLB Shaquem Griffin, who accounted for 11.5 sacks last season. They will need to make their offense more efficient against tougher opponents like Maryland, Memphis, and South Florida.
Cincinnati Bearcats – “Will the new staff revamp and reenergize the offense in 2017?”
4-8, 1-7 in American in 2016

For a Tommy Tuberville coached team, last year’s Bearcats experienced a lack of defined focus as opposed to 2015. In the 2015 season, Cincinnati was ranked 37th in the nation in points per game (33.8) but last season, they were 123rd in points per game (19.3). Despite an offense full of offensive stars, the Bearcats were not able to make an efficient offense going. With coach Tuberville resigning, the new Bearcats staff are not only having to make an efficient offensive scheme but to provide much-needed intensity to the program. The Bearcats also have a young Defensive Coordinator to work into their system.
Connecticut Huskies – “Will a winning season be within grasping reach for UConn and 2nd stint Head Coach Randy Edsall?”
3-9, 1-7 in American in 2016

UConn has not had much success of winning after Randall Edsall left as Head Coach. Luckily the UConn Huskies were able to hire Edsall back after his failed stint with the Maryland Terps. Last season was his first season back with UConn and did not go as planned with a 3-9 record. This season, the Huskies return 7 offensive starters and 6 defensive starters from last year. With a full year of recruiting under Edsall, he hopes to have more talent with the Huskies football program. Watch for the passing game to improve under returning starter QB Bryant Shirreffs who passed for over 2,000 yards last season.

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East Carolina Pirates – “How will the defense get better after a lack lusting pressure setting?”
3-9, 1-7 in American in 2016

Head Coach Scott Montgomery’s first year with the East Carolina Pirates was not smooth in terms of securing wins. A huge part of the losses came from the lacking Pirates that was ranked last in the nation in total sacks (8) and creating turnovers (5 interceptions). The Pirates were also 113th in the nation in defensive efficiency (28.2). The offense could not keep up when the defense gave 35 points in 7 games last season. If the Pirates want to make themselves more of a competitor in the American Conference, then Defensive Coordinator Kenwick Thompson will need to take charge and put more pressure on the defense.
South Florida Bulls – “Are the Bulls the team to beat outside the Power 5 conferences?”
11-2, 7-1 in American in 2016

Even after losing Head Coach Willie Taggart to Oregon, the Bulls are expected to achieve even more in the 2017 College Football. On paper, South Florida absolutely aced their Head Coach search with former Texas HC Charlie Strong. As an excellent defensive coach and a strong recruiter in the South Florida/Miami region, Strong makes a perfect hire for the Bulls. Now comes the actual test, the Bulls must get performance on defense as they were 92nd in points allowed per game (31.6). They do return 9 defensive starters as well as QB Quinton Flowers, who passed 2,812 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 1,530 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Flowers could be a dark horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy this year.
Temple Owls – “Will new Head Coach Geoff Collins continue the success of the Owl in 2017?”
10-4, 7-1 in American in 2016

For the past two seasons, the Temple Owls have been East division winners including last season where they won the Conference. The Owls have had 6 winning seasons in the past 8 years. Now Geoff Collins will take over as Head Coach after Matt Rhule left for the same position at Baylor. While the Defensive Backs are the best-returning unit on the team, they do not have many starters returning beyond that. The schedule is also not in Temple’s favor with games at Notre Dame, at South Florida and cross-divisional opponents in Houston and Navy.

Atlanta Braves: State of the Franchise.

The 2017 Atlanta Braves are a tale of two visions. The first is a franchise built on a talented farm system and a willingness to sacrifice now for a promising future; the second is a gamble on a group of aging veterans to come together and will the Braves into contention for the inaugural season at Sun Trust Park.

Image result for royalty free photo of suntrust park

The one year contention plan started with Matt Kemp in 2016 and showed General Manager John Coppolella grasps what it takes to bolster his lineup. Having Matt Kemp in the lineup highlights how good a hitter Freddie Freeman really is when pitchers have to pitch to him. Based on the post Kemp numbers from 2016 and his amazing start to 2017, Freeman is one of the best hitters in the majors. Freeman was building a case for NL MVP when an inside pitch fractured his wrist during a chippy contest with the Toronto Blue Jays.

In spite of Freeman’s injury, Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis, and GM Coppolella’s veteran acquisitions, namely Matt Kemp, Brandon Phillips, and Matt Adams, still make the Braves a difficult task for opposing pitching. The Braves are in the middle of the pack when it comes to scoring runs overall, but are one of the best run scoring road teams in baseball. The strange twist to the Braves scoring split is opposing teams are racking up runs at Sun Trust. The upside to this scenario is the Braves’ offense will likely climb in the offensive rankings due to steadily improving numbers at hitter friendly Sun Trust Park.

 

Offensive Grade-B+

The veteran moves have turned out better than expected, Ender Inciarte is the answer at lead-off and centerfield for years to come, and GM Coppolella instilled even more confidence in Braves nation by pulling hot hitting Matt Adams out of his hat in the wake of Freeman’s injury. I’m hoping we can at least cling to Kemp in hopes the “young guns” on the way up can propel us into contention next season.

Freddie Freeman (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

 

As I mentioned above, the 2017 Atlanta Braves are a hybrid of a rebuilding project and a one year, “field a good team for the new park”, experiment. Offensively the “Sun Trust plan” is going better than expected, but the pitching is teetering on the edge of a worst case scenario. RA Dickey is performing below average and Bartolo Colon has lost the ability to not pitch like the three hundred pound, 44-year-old, man he is. The silver lining is Jaime Garcia’s return to form with the Braves; he will be a great bargaining chip if the Braves decide to unload him and a good pitcher next season if not. The 2017 Braves were an honest attempt at contention, but the odds were long betting on the aging Dickey and Colon.

Colon recently went to the DL and “young gun” Sean Newcomb got the call. The 6’5 255 lb. prospect lived up to expectations by blanking the Mets for six plus innings with seven strikeouts in his debut and hung tough in some tight situations against the Marlins for his second quality start. A spectacular run bringing the Braves within a few games of the Nationals withstanding, the Braves will likely start jettisoning veterans after the break and tapping into the mountain of pitching talent amassed under GM Coppolella.

The unaddressed bullpen was the weakest link in the Atlanta Braves 2017 plan. Closer Jim Johnson appears to have a serviceable season left in the tank, but, overall, the Braves pen is an underwhelming collection of relievers sprinkled with a few live armed youngsters still developing.

 

Pitching Grade-D+

The plus is for Teheran starting to turn it around and the promise of young talent on its way. Jim Johnson is effective as closer and Jaime Garcia is having a great year, but both will likely be traded for young talent in the coming months.

Bartolo Colon (Photo Credit: Getty Images / Joe Robbins)

 

The 2017 Atlanta Braves shot at contention took a huge hit with Freddie Freeman going down with a broken wrist and Bartolo Colon appearing to finally lose his epic battle with father time. This was a team that needed everything to go right and it just didn’t work out. The new park is amazing and I enjoy the heck out of watching Dickey wing knucklers, but it is time for the Atlanta Braves to see if the pitching talent they traded an entire team for is for real. In Sean Newcomb’s case, so far so good.

 

J.D. McGriff is the Cleat Geek Beat-writer for all things ATL. He resides in Atlanta, GA and is a lifelong Atlanta sports fan/sufferer.

Rizzo Should be Suspended & The Home Plate Rule Changed

Here is the written rule; A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate), or otherwise initiate an avoidable collision. The failure by the runner to make an effort to touch the plate, the runner’s lowering of the shoulder, or the runner’s pushing through with his hands, elbows or arms would support a determination that the runner deviated from the pathway in order to initiate contact with the catcher in violation of Rule 6.01 The Rule also goes on to state. If a catcher blocks the pathway of the runner, the umpire shall not find that the runner initiated an avoidable collision in violation of this rule 6.01.

Let’s look at why the rule even exists.

Now let’s look at the video from the collision at the plate that involved Anthony Rizzo and Austin Hedges.

First, let me tell everyone reading this, that I can’t stand the rule as it is written now. But, if you are going to change a rule, then you need to follow the rule, and the way the rule is written. Therefore, what Anthony Rizzo did goes against the rule and his punishment for his blatant aggressive actions should be a suspension. He deviated from his direct path to force hard unneeded contact with Austin Hedges, the catcher.

Even Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre spoke with Rizzo on Tuesday to inform him he had violated Rule 7.13, which protects catchers from collisions.

As for his part in the play Rizzo had this to say, “It an instinct play, there’s no intent to be malicious toward Austin Hedges, toward the San Diego Padres, it wasn’t a statement,” Rizzo said. “It’s a tough baseball rule and there’s a lot of gray area. The league looked at it, and it’s over with now.”

“It was a bad slide,” Hedges said Tuesday. “I clearly gave him the plate. He went out of his way, got me pretty good. It was just too bad. I thought I gave him enough plate to go ahead and slide.”

Padres manager Andy Green called the play a “fairly egregious violation of the rule” on Monday. “Don’t think in any way, shape or form he’s a dirty baseball player,” Green said Tuesday. “I think it was one of those plays, he makes a decision in a split-second, he violated a rule. A rule that was designed to protect the health of my catcher and every catcher in the game of baseball.”

And just to be fair and get everyone’s take on the situation from every perspective let’s here what the Cub’s skipper had to say. “I thought it was a great baseball play,” Maddon said. “Their catcher did everything right, the way he caught the ball and slid into the plate as he was attempting to block the line, and Anthony did the right thing attempting to score a run, which is the whole purpose of playing baseball. The narrative gets really thrown out of proportion, but I think that’s just the world we live in today.”

To me it is not about if it is a dirty play, or not. It is the fact that MLB decided it was necessary to change the rule, their Chief Baseball Officer said it was a violation of the new rule, yet MLB is doing nothing. He should be suspended, just as a pitcher would be if they were warned then hit another batter or if a player was caught using PED’s.

I also must conclude this article by saying that I don’t like the rule, and in fact I think changing it was unnecessary and the way the rule is now is actually worse than it was before the rule change. My opinion, there needs to be a white painted box in front of the plate between the left and right handed batters boxes. When there is a play at the plate, the catcher needs to stay within that box. Yea, it really can be solved that simply.

Phil Mickelson and Caddy Jim “Bones” MacKay Split After 25 Years

One of the longest-running player-caddie relationships in golf history is no more. Phil Mickelson and Jim “Bones” Mackay, joined at the hip for a quarter-century, have gotten to the 18th green of their professional relationship and have decided to go their separate ways.

“After 25 very rewarding and memorable years, Bones and I have mutually decided to end our player-caddie relationship,” Mickelson said in a statement. “Our decision is not based on a single incident. We just feel it’s the right time for a change.”

“When Phil hired me in 1992, I had one dream: to caddie in a Ryder Cup,” Mackay said in his own statement. “Last year, at Hazeltine, Phil played in his 11th straight Ryder Cup. It was so cool to have a front row seat.”

Mickelson’s brother Tim will serve as Phil’s caddie for the remainder of the season, including the next two majors.

Mackay wrote the following in his statement, “Player-caddie relationships don’t often last that long. I will always be grateful that I was around to witness so much of Phil’s career.”

In their storied career together, Phil and Bones have captured five major championships (three Masters titles, one PGA Championship and one British Open) among 41 total PGA Tour titles. Most recently, Bones scouted the intricacies of Erin Hills even though Phil was half a country away at his daughter’s graduation.

Do you want more golf? You can check out out weekly golf story that gives our fans the details on this past weekends U.S. Open and a look ahead as well as predictions on who will win the Travelers Championship this weekend. All that and more right here.

One of the many quirks of the Mickelson-Bones relationship was the “veto,” the once-a-year opportunity Bones had to overrule Phil. Both referenced the veto in their parting statements, both with good humor.

“Bones has not used his veto this year, and I heard a rumor that he is trying to pass his veto to Tim,” Mickelson said. “For the record, vetoes are non-transferable.”

The 19th Hole: Koepka takes U.S. Open

The major champion club keeps growing. For a seventh straight time, golf has a new major winner, this time in the big-hitting Brooks Koepka, who overpowered Erin Hills and the field for victory in the U.S. Open.

Koepka tied a U.S. Open round for strokes under par by finishing at 16-under, equaling Rory McIlroy’s mark set in 2011. He did it with big, accurate drives and a putter that was hot at the right times.

And, Koepka got some sage advice from his friend Dustin Johnson, who also happened to be the defending champion of this tournament, breaking through for his first major win last June.

“Dustin actually called me (Saturday) night and told me, just stay patient. Just keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to win the thing, and just don’t get ahead of yourself. A bunch of people told me that.”

On a week scores were much lower than a normal U.S. Open at the top of the leaderboard, there still was plenty of danger in the high rough and fescue off the fairways and around the greens,

“This golf course, you had to put the ball in the fairway and if you didn’t you really got penalized, just plain and simple,” Koepka said. “I was in the fescue a couple of times, I think maybe three times, and it all jumped out straight left on me, I didn’t even have a good lie. I can’t imagine if I hit it in there a couple more times how bad it would be.”

That fact was evidenced by the struggles of many players. While Koepka was going low Sunday, five other players failed even to break 80. The world’s top three players – Johnson, Jason Day and McIlroy, all missed the cut, the latter two barely breaking 80 in their first round.

Look Phil-BREAKING GOLF NEWS- Phil Mickelson and his caddy of 25 years are calling it a career together. Get all the details and quotes from each person here.

So while many were complaining about the low scores, it wasn’t as if everyone on the grounds was torching the course.

Brian Harman had his best major effort as well, keeping the heat on Koepka until a late run of birdies by the champion Sunday. At 12-under, Harman still had far and away his best major finish, coming home tied for second with Hideki Matsuyama, who closed with a 66.

Young Englishman Tommy Fleetwood was alone in fourth, with Rickie Fowler, Bill Haas and PGA Tour rookie Xander Schauffele another stroke back tied for fifth.

Koepka’s win means this is seven consecutive major championships won by first-time major winners, dating back to Day’s win in the 2015 PGA Championship.

As is customary, the U.S. Open finished on Father’s Day, and Koepka was thinking of his own dad … sort of.

“I didn’t get him a card, so I really hope this works,” he said of the U.S. Open trophy.

 

This Week

Photo By: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The PGA Tour heads to the northeast for the Travelers Championship outside Hartford, Conn., where the birdies figure again to be flying.

Last year, this event saw Scotland’s Russell Knox take down the victory, one stroke better than veteran Jerry Kelly. Jim Furyk had the highlight of the week, tearing the course to shreds in a final-round 58, a score that tied the all-time PGA Tour record for any competitive round.

This week also sports a more solid field than might be expected the week after a major, as McIlroy, Day and Jordan Spieth are all among the competitors.

 

U.S. Open Picks

Sure was good that we picked Brooks Koepka – THE WEEK BEFORE!

Matt Kuchar – A solid weekend got Kuchar his customary nice check for his efforts. 5-under, tied for 16th

Sergio Garcia – It’s been a very good major season for Sergio as he follows up his Masters win. 4-under, tied for 21st

Jason Dufner – It got started in the wrong direction for the former PGA champ and never did get on track. 7-over, missed the cut

Brian Stuard – There will be better weeks for Stuard, but this wound up being one of the worst picks we’ve made all season. 12-over, missed the cut

Travelers Picks

Marc Leishman – The big Aussie got his first career win at this event and finished tied for 9th a year ago. He also was solid at Erin Hills, finishing tied for 27th.

Rory McIlroy – Rory is liable to have a little more motivation after an embarrassing missed cut at the U.S. Open.

Paul Casey – The 36-hole co-leader at Erin Hills faded a bit on the weekend, but his game still is in good form.

Longshot – Beau Hossler – The University of Texas product was 2nd in the Web.com Tour event last week in Wichita.

 

Wrigley Weekly Wrap-up

Ben Zobrist’s left wrist wasn’t healing as quickly as he had hoped, so the Cubs placed him on the disabled list Friday, retroactive to last Tuesday. “I tried to swing right-handed and it’s still not good,” he said Friday. “At this point, you don’t want to have the team down a player so we have to get somebody else here until it’s totally healed. That gives me seven more days to see how it really heals.” Zobrist’s left wrist has bothered him since the Cubs’ series in Los Angeles in late May. “It’s not getting better as fast as it should be,” Zobrist said. “If it’s going to take another three, four days from now for it to feel great, then we’re getting close to 10 days anyways. You might as well give the team the other option off the bench.” A switch-hitter, Zobrist said his wrist hurt him more when he batted from the right side, but said Friday it also hurt when he hit left-handed. “I thought we were trending right,” Joe Maddon said. “Let’s just shut it down, calm it down, so he can come back and play like he can.” The Cubs recalled infielder Tommy La Stella from Triple-A Iowa to take Zobrist’s spot on the roster.

Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward are still on track to be starters in the All-Star Game in the most recent voting update. The Marlins’ Marcell Ozuna surpassed the Braves’ Matt Kemp, who sits just behind the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist for fourth on the outfielder leaderboard. All three players find themselves neck-and-neck with Jason Heyward for the final starting position while Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton is also not far behind. Willson Contreras is still behind Giants’ Buster Posey for the catcher position and Anthony Rizzo still trails Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman for first base. Javier Baez is second in voting for second basemen behind Nationals’ Daniel Murphy. Kris Bryant still leads for third basemen while Addison Russell is in third place for the shortstop position.

Side Notes

A second MRI on pitcher Kyle Hendricks’ right hand revealed he has inflammation, and there is no timetable for his return. With Hendricks on the disabled list and Brett Anderson still rehabbing, the Cubs have dipped into their starting pitching depth twice. They can’t really afford another starter to get hurt.

Tribe Take: Strong Week

Looking to stay ahead in the AL Central coming off a solid week beforehand, the Tribe took to the field to take on two hot teams in the Dodgers and the Twins.

Monday started off with the day off for the Tribe, as they had a nice practice day to prep for the Dodgers the next day.

Clayton Kershaw took to the mound to take on the powerful Tribe offense in game 1 of the 3 game stint on Tuesday, and he was nothing short of dominant. He only gave up 2 runs and although the Tribe attempted a late comeback, it was too late as the Dodgers offense helped steal the first game at Progressive Field with a final of 7-5.

Wednesday was more of the same from the Dodgers all around team, as the offense was clicking once again and the pitching was solid as they stole another game, this one with a final of 6-4.

In the final game of the series on Thursday, it was the Tribe’s turn to take over. Their offense exploded for 12 runs in a complete game all around to head out to Minnesota on a high note.

After the strong finish against the Dodgers, the Tribe took off to Minnesota to play a 4 game series with the second place Twins.

All 4 games, including the double header on Saturday, were all domination by the Tribe. The Indians didn’t give up more than 3 runs in any game, and their offense came to life finally, as Edwin Encarnacion led the way and hit 2 homers to get his power back on Sunday.

STORY OF THE WEEK: After the Tribe were able to complete the 4 game sweep of the Twins, they propelled themselves into 1st place and sole control of the AL Central Division. With this division struggling, the future looks bright for the World Series runner up’s.

2017 College Football American Conference (West Division) Preview; Major Questions For Each Team

Every College Football season, each team from each conference has a major question that circles around the preseason progress of their potential success. Every year, the American Conference is one of the top conferences competing outside the power 5 (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC-12 and SEC). The West Division might be the most competitive division internally in the American Conference. Athlon Sports predicts that 5 of the 6 teams in the West Division will be playing in a bowl with at least 6 wins. The Tulane Green Wave are the lone team outside of the bowl berth talk. The American Conference is one of the toughest divisions to play against and have teams that are huge playoff contenders until they kick each other out. Last season, the Houston Cougars shocked the world and beat the Oklahoma Sooners in the first week of the 2016 College Football season. This is a division that is any team’s fair game to face the winner of the East Division for the American Conference Championship. Here are the biggest questions that each team will be facing in the upcoming 2017 College Football season.

 

Houston Cougars“Will new Head Coach Major Applewhite continue success after Tom Herman’s departure?”
9-4, 5-3 in American in 2016

The newest Nick Saban assistant turned Head Coach will lead his Cougars after two years as Offensive Coordinator. The first step to finding a starting Quarterback, former Texas A&M Aggies Kyle Allen could potentially be that starting Quarterback. The Cougars do return multiple players including the best Defensive Line in the American Conference led by former star freshman Ed Oliver. Houston might be hit hard by once again the startling lack of experienced Defensive Backs. This 2017 College Football season will be Applewhite’s biggest test yet as a coach.
Memphis Tigers“Are the Memphis Tigers a sleeper team in the American Conference?”
8-5, 5-3 in American in 2016

Last year, the Memphis Tigers were tied for 3rd in the West Division along with the Houston Cougars. This season, the Tigers are predicted by many analysts to win the Western Division of the American Conference. They return their starting Quarterback in Riley Ferguson, who passed for 3,698 yards last season. Memphis needs to address their defensive flaws but has tinkered with formations and systematics for this upcoming season. Their conference schedule is favorable with no match-ups against South Florida, Temple or Cincinnati. Ferguson’s arm might be the definitive answer to them being a playoff contender or pretender.

 
Navy Midshipmen“Will the Midshipmen regain the Commander-In-Chief’s trophy?”
9-5, 7-1 in American in 2016

Despite winning the West Division of the American Conference last season, the Navy Midshipmen lost an important series. Navy lost to both the Air Force Falcons and their rivals in the Army West Point Black Knights. To make matters worse, the Midshipmen had not lost to the Knights since the 2001 college football season. As much as Navy wants to win the American Conference, the Midshipmen also want to beat their military academy service rivals. Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo will have to start with replacing a Quarterback and two of their main Tailbacks, which is a crucial part of their triple-option offense.

 
SMU Mustangs “Is this a big or bust season for Head Coach Chad Morris?”
5-7, 3-5 in American in 2016

SMU has not been to a bowl game in Head Coach Chad Morris’ career with the Mustangs. Ultimately, they have not been to a bowl game since the 2012 College Football season. This will be the 3rd season with Morris as Head Coach with SMU and with it the best opportunity to get to a bowl game especially with the returning talent for this year. WR Courtland Sutton caught 1,246 yards and 10 touchdowns last season with the Mustangs. DE Justin Lawler accounted for 6 sacks and CB Jordan Wyatt accounted for 4 interceptions. This may not be the season that Morris could be gone if this season goes wrong but he’ll need to win to avoid that possibility.

 
Tulane Green Wave “Will the tough schedule make Tulane’s season difficult in 2017?”
4-8, 1-7 in American in 2016

Fresh off of a rebuilding season, Tulane wants to be more competitive in the American Conference title race. This year’s schedule might be a big roadblock of Tulane reaching that goal with games at Oklahoma, who will no doubt be ranked in the top 10 in the preseason. Tulane also has a competitive game at Florida International then conference play games back-to-back with South Florida and at Memphis. Finally, the Houston Cougars and a game at the SMU Mustangs will be at the end of the season. If Tulane wants a bowl berth, they have to more aggressive on offense than they were last year as they were 104th in points per game (24.1).

 
Tulsa Golden Hurricane“Will the new Quarterback need to be the leader of an efficient offense?”
10-3, 6-2 in American in 2016

Last season, Tulsa was ranked in the top 10 of every major offensive category except for passing yards per game. Tulsa was ranked 30th in the nation in passing yards per game (265.3). Once Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator Phillip Montgomery finds a new starting Quarterback, they will be set with a strong line and backfield. The Golden Hurricane return 4 of their starting Offensive Line from last year, 3 of whom are pre-season All-Conference. Running Back D’Angelo Brewer is also a preseason All-Conference who rushed for 1,435 yards last season. The run game will be a huge relief factor to the new Quarterback once one has won the starting job.

Royally Yours: Week in Review

The Royals had a good week winning both of their series. They started the week on the road against the San Francisco Giants. The Royals won both games by at least five runs. Their weekend series was against the Angels in Anaheim. The Royals won three of the four games. It was their third series win in a row. Their success this week helped them move up in the standings.

 

The American League Central is one of the closest divisions this season. The Royals are currently in third place. They are 3.5 games behind the division leading Minnesota Twins. The Royals have also moved up in the wild card race. The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays are leading the wild card standings. The Royals are currently 2.5 behind. If the Royals continue their success they could move into playoff contention.

Lorenzo Cain has been one of the best offensive players in baseball this month. He has a .373 average and a .814 slugging percentage in June. He also has 8 home runs so far this month, which is tied for the highest in the MLB. Cain leads the Royals in runs, walks, stolen bases, and WAR. The Royals have improved offensively in the last few weeks and Lorenzo Cain has been a big contributor.

 

The Royals have improved their power hitting. The team has 81 home runs so far this season. In 2016, the team only combined for 147, which was the fewest in the American League. This season five Royals have nine or more home runs. Last season only six Royals had nine or more all season. This month the Royals have the fourth most home runs in the American League. The Royals have improved their power hitting this season and it has been a big part of their success in the month of June.

 

The Royals will start a week long home stand on Monday against the Boston Red Sox. It will be the Royals first series against the Red Sox this season. Boston is one of the top teams in the American League. The Royals weekend series will be against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays struggled early this season but have improved and currently have a 33-35 record. Despite their improvement they are still in last place in the American League East. The Royals will need to continue third success next week against two American League East opponents.

SABERmetrics Sunday: Mile-High Mark Reynolds

The Colorado Rockies are raising a lot of eyebrows around baseball as they are sitting high in the NL west battling the Diamondbacks and Dodgers for the division crown. A number of aspects of their game are contributing to their success like their young pitching and of course their offense. A player that stands out is Mark Reynolds.

The 33-year old slugger is in his second year with Colorado and has seemed to up his game in his Rockies stint. Reynolds has been in MLB since 2007 and was always a strikeout or home run kind of guy. From 2007-2015, Reynolds averaged 26 home runs, a .323 OBP, 11.3% BB and 169 Ks in 140 games per-season; Reynolds has played four 145+ game seasons in which he had averaged 209 Ks.

He joined the Rockies in 2016 and since then has seen some changes in his offensive numbers. Last year he had a career-high .356 OBP, a career low 25.4% K rate (which still is poor in terms of fangraphs averages, but good for Reynolds), the lowest BB% since his rookie year at 9.5% and his second-lowest home run total (14) in 118 games.

Through his first 65 games this season he continues to impress in production. Going into 6/17 he has a .382 OBP / .557 Slugging / .939 OPS / .360 BABIP / 17 home runs / 25.8% K / 11.2% BB. Reynolds is doing some really good things across the board right now, he is walking at an above-average rate, crushing the ball and just doing a great job at getting on base. It is interesting to note his BABIP is at a solid .360 and it was .361 last season after averaging a .294 BABIP in his first nine years, more balls he is putting in play are falling for hits and not just home runs. The 25.8 K rate still is high and probably will not change, if he plays 150 games or so he will probably strikeout 150ish times.

*NOTE: BABIP does not apply for home runs*

A big factor that a lot of people point out is Coors Field and how hitter-friendly that environment is. It is probably likely that it helps Reynolds out a bit. If he plays a season of about 150 games he will definitely get more benefits on flyballs leaving the park and his BABIP is certainly at a sustainable number, not saying it will stay but it is possible. And though 25% K is not great, keeping it around that level as opposed to around 30% where he was for many years, he will increase his chances at getting hits by putting the ball in play more while still sustaining a very good walk rate…thus equaling a better on-base%.

Overall is seems Reynolds will always be a slugger who strikes out more than normal but he is showing the ability to do a bit more across the hitting board. Sure, Coors plays a factor at times likely but his approach is also helping him a lot and he deserves credit for it.

 

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