Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 3:32 pm

Paul T. Marsh
A PITCHf/x primer

http://mvn.com/mlb-stats/2008/01/14/a-pitchfx-primer/



Many of you are hopefully familiar with the PITCHf/x system and at least some of the data and analysis that have been produced on the subject over the past year, but it may be completely new to some of you. In either case, I thought it would be helpful to provide an introduction and tutorial on the information that is available. I’ll point toward some existing resources and try to fill in some of the gaps. I’ve divided this primer into sections so you can easily skip to the parts that interest you.

1. What is PITCHf/x?
2. How do I get and use the data?
3. Where can I find resources?
4. How do I identify pitch types?
5. How do I interpret graphs?
6. Is the data reliable?
7. Where can I go for further discussion and study?

1. What is PITCHf/x?

PITCHf/x is a system developed by Sportvision and introduced in Major League Baseball during the 2006 playoffs. It uses two cameras to record the position of the pitched baseball during its flight from the pitcher’s hand to home plate, and various parameters are measured and calculated to describe the trajectory and speed of each pitch. It was instituted in most ballparks throughout MLB as the 2007 season progressed, such that we have PITCHf/x data for a little over a third of the games from 2007. MLBAM used the PITCHf/x data in their Enhanced Gameday application and also made the data freely available for downloading and research.

In some ways, PITCHf/x is a bridge between scouting and analysis, giving us an objective window into the batter-pitcher matchup at a level we’ve never seen before. In 2008, the system should be installed in every major-league ballpark, and we will hopefully have complete detail for every pitch, although MLB has not committed to whether all the data will continue to be freely available in the future.

2. How do I get and use the data?

If you want to look at the XML data from a single game, you can go to the MLB website and browse through the files. Data is organized by year, month, day, and game. Within each game directory are a number of subdirectories containing the data in XML format. If you want to see the detailed pitch information within the game context, I suggest looking at the files in the inning subdirectory. If you want to see all the pitch information for a particular pitcher, you can go the pbp/pitchers subdirectory, but you need to know Elias playerID for your pitcher of interest. If you want to know what the various XML pitch data fields mean, read my glossary.

If you want to manipulate and analyze a single game’s worth of data, you can download and import the XML files into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Dr. Alan Nathan has laid out the steps for you at his Physics of Baseball site.

If you want to get a little more hardcore, you can download the XML data for every game in the 2007 season. Using Perl scripts adapted from Joseph Adler’s Baseball Hacks, I downloaded the data and parsed it into a MySQL database. I’ve outlined the steps needed for you to do this yourself and shared the Perl code to give you a head start. (I’m not aware of anyone who’s gotten the Perl-to-MySQL path working on a Mac, so if you have, please drop me a line.)

3. Where can I find resources?

Probably the most popular and valuable PITCHf/x resource on the web is Josh Kalk’s collection of player cards. Josh has classified every pitch as either a fastball, sinker, cutter, splitter, changeup, slider, curve, or knuckleball using a clustering algorithm and made graphs of pitch speed, movement, and release point for every pitcher with at least 100 pitches recorded by PITCHf/x. Strike zone charts are available for hitters. This is a great resource that reminds me in some ways of Wikipedia: the depth, breadth, and accuracy of the information is amazing, doubly so since it’s free, but the accuracy isn’t perfect, and it’s worth keeping that in mind. Stuff that looks quirky to you may in fact be quirky. (Felix Hernandez does not throw a 100-mph splitter.)

Josh Kalk has also developed a PITCHf/x tool that allows you to query his database for a specific subset of pitches and plot their strike zone location.

The Hardball Times published a pitch identification tutorial by John Walsh that is a good introduction to the general PITCHf/x topic as well as the specific topic of pitch identification.

Dr. Alan Nathan’s Physics of Baseball site has a lot of interesting resources, including some PITCHf/x-related material.

4. How do I identify pitch types?

Some people are good at identifying pitch types while at the ballpark or from the center field TV camera view. That was a splitter. That was a sinker. That was a slider. Etc. I am not one of those people. If you are not one of those people either, PITCHf/x was made for you. Even if you are one of those people, PITCHf/x can be a useful resource for learning about how different pitches move.

A pitcher’s fastest pitch is usually a four-seam fastball. A typical major-league fastball is around 90 mph, many a little faster, some a little slower. The fastball from a right-handed pitcher breaks in toward a right-handed hitter. Pitches from a lefty move the opposite way; a fastball from a lefty breaks away from a right-handed hitter. I’ll describe the movement for pitches from a righty and you can flip the orientation if you want to know how a similar pitch from a lefty would behave.

Pitchers throw variations of the fastball by changing the grip on the baseball or parts of their motion and delivery. The most popular variation is a two-seam fastball, which often thrown a couple mph slower and breaks in more and drops more to a right-handed hitter from a right-handed pitcher than the four-seamer. The cut fastball is also thrown a few mph slower than the four-seamer and breaks away a little from a right-handed hitter, if it breaks at all.

The most popular off-speed pitch is the changeup, which is typically thrown 7-10 mph slower than a pitcher’s fastball. It usually has a similar break to the fastball, in toward a right-handed hitter. Some pitchers employ a grip on their changeup to impart additional movement, usually causing the pitch to break in more and drop more to a right-handed hitter. The split-finger fastball acts much like a changeup except that its velocity and movement are usually somewhere between the fastball and changeup.

Breaking balls include the slider and curveball. The slider is usually thrown at the same speed as the changeup or sometimes a few mph faster. The movement on the slider can vary quite a bit from one pitcher to another. Some sliders move like a cutter, with hardly any left-right break. Other sliders move more like a curveball, which breaks away from a right-handed hitter and down. The curveball is the slowest pitch, thrown in the 65-80 mph range in major league baseball.

The knuckleball is a special case in major league baseball these days. As far as I know, there were only two regular practitioners of the pitch in the majors last year: Tim Wakefield and Charlie Haeger. The pitch is thrown with very little spin such that the airstream interaction with the seam orientation causes the baseball to move unpredictably. Wakefield and Haeger throw the knuckleball about 65-70 mph.

Of course, there are a number of variations and combinations of the above pitches and specialty pitches like the screwball and gyroball and even the 50-mph Orlando Hernandez eephus pitch.

Typical RHP spin deflection

Here is a plot showing the typical vertical and horizontal spin deflection (a.k.a.”break”) of typical pitches from a right-handed pitcher, as viewed from the catcher’s point of view. A mirror image would give you the plot for left-handed pitcher. You can use this as a key for interpreting some of the graphs on Josh Kalk’s player cards or for understanding the spin-induced movement on various types of pitches.

5. How do I interpret graphs?

PITCHf/x analysis and research is a promising field with wide application and broad interest, and there are a number of people who have made important contributions in the first year of analysis. As a result, there are many different formats for presenting the results. I’ll summarize and explain a few of them here and give a more detailed explanation of some of the graphs that I use most frequently.

The most common plots presented by other PITCHf/x researchers include information about the speed and spin-induced deflection of pitches. To the best of my knowledge, Joe Sheehan was the first to produce these plots, showing speed on the vertical axis and the two components of spin deflection as two sets of points on the horizontal axis. Joe hasn’t done much pitch classification work recently, but he deserves a nod as the groundbreaker in that field.

Something you’re more likely to encounter these days is a plot from John Walsh, such as those contained in his pitch identification tutorial. He plots vertical “movement” versus horizontal “movement”, where movement refers to the spin-induced deflection, and indicates speed by color-coding the points on the graph.

Most common of all are the plots from Josh Kalk’s pitcher cards, particularly the plots of vertical “break” versus horizontal “break”. These are similar to John Walsh’s plots except that instead of color-coding for speed, the points on the graph are color-coded by pitch type. Josh has separate graphs that plot speed versus horizontal break and speed versus vertical break, reminiscent of the original Sheehan plots. Josh’s player cards also contain information on release point, which is the height and left-right position of the pitch measured 50 feet from home plate, which is soon after the actual release by the pitcher.

In the past I have presented graphs similar to those of Sheehan and Kalk, but more recently I’ve adopted a graph from Alan Nathan as my mainstay. It is a polar plot, with the speed of the pitch on the radial axis. The faster the pitch, the farther from the center. The slower the pitch, the closer to the center. The angle is the angle of the Magnus force, which is the force that cause the ball to break. Curveballs break down, so they’ll be in the bottom part of the graph. Sliders break away from a right-handed hitter, so they’ll be on the left side of the graph. The Magnus force of a fastball pushes the ball up, causing it to drop less than it normally would due to gravity alone, so the fastballs will be on the top part of the graph.

I’ve also started showing a graph of what I call “late break”, which is a combination of the effects of spin deflection and gravity as well as the speed of the pitch. The goal is to show something close to what the hitter perceives as the break or movement of the pitch. I calculate the deflection of the pitch due to two forces, spin and gravity, in the last 0.25 seconds of its trajectory before it crosses the plate, an idea I got from Tom Tango. I chose a quarter second because that’s roughly the reaction time of a batter executing a swing. I chose to include the effect of gravity because I believe that more accurately reflects what hitters see. Hitters don’t attempt to hit a gravity-less pitch; they attempt to hit a pitch that’s being affected by gravity and being deflected by spin.

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 3:33 pm

I'll leave the answer to cali as he's the Peavy expert. However Wang's slider is a developing outpitch. K's are increasing on an annual basis and when the sinker is on it is an outpitch...just a groundball out pitch.

It is a valid point though that Peavy is more comparable to someone like Wang than my definition of 'true aces' like Beckett and Santana

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 3:35 pm

QUOTE(Corsi Combover @ Jan 15 2008, 01:43 AM) *
Source: http://news.bostonherald.com/sports/baseba...position=recent



This really is a weird article. In it Silvermann initially called Kennedy lefthanded (twice, and it has since been fixed) and misquotes Manuel. From BBTF's Newsblog:

QUOTE
At the risk of topping myself for "tupidest sentence in the history of American sports journalism," I think Mike Silverman (who I'll email) misquoted me. I just wrote up our Yankees Top 10 prospects (and Top 30 for the 2008 Prospect Handbook, plug plug) . . . and the Kennedy scouting report cites a plus changeup. I wrote that he does have a plus pitch and told Mike that. At his best, according to scouts, he has one plus pitch, the changeup, and three solid-average major league pitches (FB, slider, curve), and above-average command. That's why he's good, and he's quite good. I think highly of Kennedy. If I had to choose, I would take Lester because he's similar in terms of stuff and lefthanded, but they are quite similar in terms of ceiling.

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 3:36 pm

Now, i'm always careful about being biased, but you always take the guy with a great change up over the guy with a great fastball. Especially since Buchholz has a pretty good fastball as well. Let's assume Joba's slider and Buchholz's curveball are a wash.

Buchholz > Joba

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 3:39 pm

From Jerry Crasnick today's chat
QUOTE
http://proxy.espn.go.com/chat/chatESPN?event_id=18846

Steve (Boston): While Joba has a great future ahead of him, I believe that Clay has better raw stuff. Joba has great velocity but does he have an out pitch as nasty as the Bucholz Curve?

SportsNation Jerry Crasnick: (1:07 PM ET ) Steve,

Chamberlain's fastball and slider both grade out near 80 on the 20-80 scouts scale. You don't get any better than that. He didn't use his curveball or changeup out of the bullpen, but he'll have both in his arsenal if he goes to the rotation. I still think he's good enough to blow hitters away throwing the fastball and slider 90 percent of the time

;-D

QUOTE
http://proxy.espn.go.com/chat/chatESPN?event_id=18846

Doug (Boston): Clay has no weaknesses, Joba cannot pitch with insects around.

SportsNation Jerry Crasnick: (1:13 PM ET ) Doug,

Here's an interesting thing about Buchholz: Two scouts told me they're a little concerned because he pitches with an extremely high arm angle. Apparently some people in baseball think that can lead to shoulder problems. Buchholz also has a very wiry build -- a la Bronson Arroyo. Some talented evaluators look at his body type and wonder if he can consistently handle a big workload.

Two scouts according to Mr.Crasnick chat today that They compare Clay to Bronson Arroyo.

QUOTE
http://proxy.espn.go.com/chat/chatESPN?event_id=18821


Joshua (Canton, MA): I think you meant to say Buchholz has a wiry build like Roy Oswalt.

SportsNation Jerry Crasnick: (1:20 PM ET ) Joshua,

No, Buchholz is listed at 6-3, so he's significantly taller than Roy Oswalt. I heard Arroyo, Matt Clement and Jack McDowell mentioned as similar body types to Buchholz.


Joba did throw a curveball to Jd Drew . Drew was expecting a Fastball from Joba, I love it when Jd buckle and freeze on Joba's curve


QUOTE
http://proxy.espn.go.com/chat/chatESPN?event_id=18846

Drew (Bedford, NY): You mentioned that on the 20-80 scale Joba's Slider and fastball are an 80. Where on the scouting scale do Buchholz's pitches fall? What about Joba's Change and curve?

SportsNation Jerry Crasnick: Drew,

Buchholz's curveball and changeup both rank around 70. His fastball is slightly below that. I guess Joba's curve ranges from above average to hellacious depending on the day. His changeup is a work in progress

I still think Clay's command on his fastball still a question mark according to Keith Law. He did gave up homerun to Justin Upton in futures game. I know that game is meaningless and doesn't count


http://www.replacementlevel.com/index.php/RLYW/comments/pitch_f_x_and_joba_chamberlain

QUOTE
We all saw how Joba burst onto the scene with his high 90s fastball and nasty slider, throwing 24 innings of 1192 ERA+. He does have a curve and changeup, but neither was used very much as a reliever. For Joba, Pitch F/X had detailed pitch information for 225 of his 334 pitches.

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 3:40 pm

Except that's not true. Who says his curveball isn't good? The "general consensus" is that everyone who has seen it says it's a plus pitch, not as good as his slider or fastball but a plus pitch nonetheless. I haven't seen anyone say his curveball sucks or is meh at best. Every scouting report I've read on him says the same thing, that he has a plus curveball, and that his changeup is average but if he could get more consistent with it, would have potential. If you haven't seen any of these scouting reports on him, that's fine, but you seemed to be saying it wasn't plus unless he was throwing it in the majors and you saw it yourself, which I found odd.

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 3:45 pm

Yankees Blog by Journal News beat writer Peter Abraham

Yankee invite 26 to spring training

http://yankees.lhblogs.com/


Received this press release from the Yankees. In addition to the players on the 40-man roster, they invited 26 others to spring training:

YANKEES INVITE 26 PLAYERS TO SPRING TRAINING

The New York Yankees announced today that they have invited 26 non-roster players to Spring Training in Tampa, Florida. The list includes nine pitchers, five catchers, five infielders and seven outfielders. The total number of players now scheduled to report is 66.

C Kyle Anson, 24, batted .272 (91-for-334) with four home runs and 44 RBI in 98 games with Single-A Charleston in 2007, and ranked second in the South Atlantic League with a 40.4 percent caught-stealing rate (42-for-104) in his first season as a catcher. Anson was originally selected by the Yankees in the 10th round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft as a third baseman.

C Jason Brown, 33, batted .208 (10-for-48) with one home run and three RBI with Double-A Trenton in 2007 after being limited to 15 games due to a left shoulder separation. Brown was originally signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers as a non-drafted free agent on May 26, 1997, and was signed by the Yankees as a free agent on November 19, 2004.

INF Bernie Castro, 28, played with Triple-A Columbus in the Washington organization, ranking fourth among all Nationals minor leaguers with 34 stolen bases and hitting .280 (120-for-428) with one home run and 32 RBI in 118 games in 2007. Castro has spent parts of two seasons in the Majors (Baltimore in 2005 and Washington in 2006), batting .253 (118-for-466) with 17 RBI in 66 games. He returns to the Yankees organization that originally signed him as a non-drafted free agent on September 25, 1997.

OF Justin Christian, 27, split time between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2007, batting .271 (115-for-424) with four home runs and 48 RBI in 105 games. Christian attended Auburn University and was originally signed by the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent on July 1, 2004.

OF Colin Curtis, 22, played in 65 games with Single-A Tampa where he batted .298 (73-for-245) with five home runs and 26 RBI. He was promoted to Double-A Trenton on June 22 and hit .242 (58-for-240) with three home runs and 15 RBI in 61 games in his Double-A debut. Curtis was originally selected by the Yankees in the fourth round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft out of Arizona State University.

INF Eric Duncan, 23, hit .241 (99-for-411) with 26 doubles, 11 home runs and 61 RBI in 113 games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2007, setting a career high in doubles and tying a career best in RBI. Duncan was selected by the Yankees in the first round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft.

OF Brett Gardner, 24, split time between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2007, batting .281 (108-for-384) with one home run, 26 RBI and 39 stolen bases in 99 games. Over the last two seasons, he has successfully stolen a base in 83.6 percent of his tries (97-for-116). After the season, Gardner played in 26 games for the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .343 (37-for-108) with 10 RBI and ranked among league leaders in stolen bases (16), runs scored (27), hits (37), walks (17), on-base percentage (.433) and batting average while being named to the AFL Top Prospects Team. Following the 2007 season, he was ranked by Baseball America as the eighth-best prospect in the organization as well as the fastest baserunner and the player with the best strike-zone discipline among all Yankees minor leaguers. Gardner was originally selected by the Yankees in the third round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft out of the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

RHP Daniel Giese, 30, made his Major League debut with the Giants as a September call-up, going 0-2 with a 4.82 ERA in eight relief appearances. He began the season with Triple-A Fresno (San Francisco) where he went 3-1 with two saves and a 2.82 ERA in 47 relief appearances. Originally selected by Boston in the 34th round of the 1999 First-Year Player Draft, Giese owns a 43-26 record with a 2.97 ERA in 374 career minor league appearances.

INF Nick Green, 29, spent time with Seattle, Triple-A Tacoma and Triple-A Indianapolis in 2007. With Indianapolis, he hit .245 (25-for-102) with five home runs and 20 RBI in 26 games before being traded to Seattle. In 66 games with Tacoma, hit .337 (96-for-285) with 16 home runs and 46 RBI and was promoted on September 4 to Seattle, where he did not record a hit in six games (seven at-bats). Green is a career .240 (169-for-703) hitter with 10 home runs and 59 RBI in 275 games over four Major League seasons with Atlanta, Tampa Bay, New York (AL) and Seattle. In 2006 with the Yankees, he batted .240 (21-for-114) with two home runs and four RBI in 46 games. Green was originally selected by Atlanta in the 32nd round of the 1998 First-Year Player Draft.

RHP Alan Horne, 25, was 12-4 with a 3.11 ERA in 27 starts with Double-A Trenton in 2007, earning Eastern League “Pitcher of the Year” honors. He led the league in ERA, strikeouts (165) and winning percentage (.750), while ranking fourth in innings pitched (153.1). Following the 2007 season, he was named to the Eastern League midseason All-Star team and was selected as the EL’s top right-handed starter on the postseason All-Star team. Horne was selected by the Yankees in the 11th round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.

OF Austin Jackson, 20, spent time at four different levels in 2007 (Single-A Charleston, Single-A Tampa, Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre), combining to hit .304 (151-for-496) with 88 runs scored, 21 doubles, 13 home runs, 59 RBI and 33 stolen bases in 128 games. He was ranked by Baseball America as the organization’s No. 2 prospect and was selected as the “Best Athlete” and “Best Defensive Outfielder” in the Yankees’ minor league system. Jackson was originally selected by the Yankees in the eighth round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.

RHP Steven Jackson, 25, split the 2007 season between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, combining to go 4-9 with one save and a 5.40 ERA in 28 appearances (11 starts). Jackson was originally selected by the Diamondbacks in the 10th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft and was acquired by the Yankees from Arizona along with right-handed pitchers Ross Ohlendorf and Luis Vizcaino and infielder Alberto Gonzalez in exchange for Randy Johnson on January 9, 2007.

OF Jason Lane, 31, split time between Houston and Triple-A Round Rock in 2007 before being traded to San Diego on September 24. Over two stints with the Astros, batted .178 (30-for-169) with eight home runs and 27 RBI in 68 games and hit .319 (59-for-185) with nine home runs and 41 RBI in 50 games with Round Rock. In three games with the Padres, he did not record a hit in two at-bats. Originally selected by the Astros in the sixth round of the 1999 First-Year Player Draft, Lane is a career .241 (291-for-1,208) hitter with 61 home runs and 189 RBI in 497 games with Houston and San Diego. He batted .267 (138-for-517) in 145 games with Houston in 2005, establishing career highs in home runs (26) and runs batted in (78).

RHP Daniel McCutchen, 25, combined to go 14-4 with a 2.47 ERA, 33 walks and 103 strikeouts in 24 games (23 starts) with Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton in 2007. His wins were tied for second most in the organization while his ERA ranked third among Yankees farmhands. The Florida State League All-Star was rated by Baseball America as having the FSL’s best control. The right-hander was selected by the Yankees in the 13th round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.

RHP Mark Melancon, 22, missed the 2007 season while recovering from “Tommy John” surgery. Originally selected by the Yankees in the ninth round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, he was 0-1 with a 3.52 ERA in seven relief appearances with short-season Single-A Staten Island in 2006, his first professional season.

C Jesus Montero, 18, made his professional debut with the Gulf Coast Yankees in 2007, batting .280 (30-for-107) with six doubles, three home runs and 19 RBI in 33 games. He committed just one error in 182 total chances behind the plate and was rated as the Yankees’ top catching prospect (sixth overall) and the organization’s best power hitter by Baseball America. The Venezuelan native signed with the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent in October 2006 and will be the youngest player in the Yankees spring training camp.

LHP Heath Phillips, 25, split time with the White Sox and Triple-A Charlotte and made his Major League debut as a September call-up, going 1-1 with a 3.68 ERA in six relief appearances with Chicago. With Charlotte, he tied for the International League lead in wins, going 13-7 with a 4.30 ERA in 28 starts. He led all Chicago minor leaguers and the International League in innings pitched and went 8-0 with a 2.44 ERA over his final 11 starts. His eight-game winning streak tied for the second-longest in the IL in 2007. Phillips was originally signed by the White Sox in the 10th round of the 2000 First-Year Player Draft.

C P.J. Pilittere, 26, will make his second straight appearance in spring camp after receiving a non-roster invitation in 2006. He batted .261 (91-for-348) with 16 doubles, two home runs and 34 RBI in 100 games with Double-A Trenton in 2007 and led all Eastern League catchers with a .995 fielding percentage, committing only four errors in 844 total chances. He was originally selected by the Yankees in the 13th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.

OF Greg Porter, 27, combined to hit .316 (149-for-472) with 11 home runs and 78 RBI in 129 games with Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Salt Lake. He was named the June “Player of the Month” among all Angels minor league players, hitting .368 (42-for-114) with 25 runs scored, 12 doubles and 28RBI in 31 games. Porter was originally selected by the Angels in the 45th round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft and was signed by the Yankees on December 1, 2007.

INF Cody Ransom, 31, appeared in 19 games with Houston in 2007, batting .229 (8-for-35) with two doubles, one home run and three RBI. He opened the year with Triple-A Round Rock and won team MVP honors, batting .260 with 35 doubles, a team-high 28 home runs and a team-high 90 RBI. A former ninth round pick of the San Francisco Giants in the 1998 First-Year Player Draft, Ransom owns a .236 career Major League batting average (33-for-140) with nine doubles, three home runs and 16 RBI in 133 games with the Giants and Astros.

RHP Darrell Rasner, 27, made his first Opening Day roster in 2007 and went 1-3 with a 4.01 ERA over two stints with the Yankees. He had his season cut short on May 19 when he was hit in the right hand by a come-back ground ball. He underwent surgery the next day to repair a fractured right index finger. After missing three months, he made two rehab starts with short-season Single-A Staten Island (0-0, 5.14 ERA) to close out the year. A second round pick of the Montreal Expos in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, he was claimed off waivers by the Yankees from the Washington Nationals on February 10, 2006.

C Austin Romine, 19, was selected by the Yankees in the second round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft out of El Toro High School in California. He appeared in one game with the Gulf Coast League Yankees, going 1-for-2 with one double, one RBI and one walk. Baseball America rated the catcher’s arm strength the third-best among the nation’s high school players in the draft.

RHP Scott Strickland, 31, was 4-1 with a 4.58 ERA in 15 relief appearances with Triple-A Portland (San Diego) in 2007. He owns a 21-17 record in 193 career Major League games (27 starts) with a 3.26 ERA, pitching with the Expos and Astros. Originally selected by the Montreal Expos in the 10th round of the 1997 First-Year Player Draft, Strickland was signed by the Yankees as a free agent on December 20, 2007.

OF Jose Tabata, 19, batted a team-high .307 (126-for-411) with Single-A Tampa in 2007, along with 16 doubles, five home runs, 54 RBI and 15 stolen bases. He earned a spot on the Florida State League’s postseason All-Star team after ranking fifth in average and never going more than two games without recording a hit. He was ranked by Baseball America as the Yankees’ third-best prospect and tabbed as being the best hitter for average in the organization. This will be the second straight spring training invitation for Tabata who signed with the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent on August 12, 2004.

LHP Billy Traber, 27, appeared in 28 games (two starts) with the Washington Nationals in 2007, going 2-2 with a 4.76 ERA. The left-hander opened the year with Triple-A Columbus where he was 2-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 14 games (four starts), striking out 29 batters with only seven walks. Signed by the Yankees as a minor league free agent on January 4, 2008, Traber has appeared in 76 Major League games (28 starts) with the Cleveland Indians and Nationals, posting a 12-14 record and a 5.41 ERA.

INF Marcos Vechionacci, 21, spent most of the 2007 season with Single-A Tampa, batting .266 (104-for-391) with 44 runs scored, 23 doubles and 39 RBI in 108 games at third base. He also appeared with Double-A Trenton in the final two games of the regular season and batted .288 in the postseason, helping the Thunder win the Eastern League title. Following the season, he joined Magallanes in the Venezuelan Winter League where he hit .286 (30-for-105) in 41 games. He was rated by Baseball America as having the best infield arm in the organization for the second straight season. Vechionacci was originally signed by the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent on August 26, 2002

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 3:45 pm

Wow, Sheehan at BP is pretty bullish on Melky

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=7053

That’s cool After hearing how down the Twins are on him, watching his implosion at the end of last season, and reading an article somewhere else about his approach at the plate getting worse, I was starting to get down on him as well. Hopefully, Melky does start driving the ball into the gaps more and slapping less!

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 3:50 pm

BP- Joe Sheehan on Melky

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=7053

Melky Cabrera. Cabrera went backwards in ’07, but not by enough for concern. Remember that he is just 23 years old and has more than 1100 plate appearances in the majors, with average to average-plus defense (good physical tools, but very raw, takes bad routes) and a very good 129/96 K/BB. He is a mature player offensively, patient at the plate and fair on the bases (25-for-35 stealing in his career). One interesting quirk is his G/F ratio, which is 1.63 for his career and was a whopping 1.81 last season. Cabrera is listed at 5’11” and 200 pounds. He’s not Willy Taveras, but rather a player who should be developing power and learning how to drive the ball, rather than hitting the ball on the ground 60 percent of the time.

I’m reminded of Alex Rios, who doesn’t look a thing like Cabrera. Rios was largely disappointing in 2004 and 2005, hitting just 11 homers in more than 900 at-bats, with an isolated power of 117. The problem: Rios was hitting the ball on the ground too much, a 1.82 G/F in those two seasons. Starting in ’06, Rios put the ball in the air more than half the time, and became a star. When you look at Cabrera’s body, his established control of the strike zone, and his ability to hold his own at a young age, you recognize that all it’s going to take is for him to start elevating the ball. Cabrera may not get there in 2008, but he’s going to pop 80 extra-base hits and slug .500 in a season very, very soon.


Last edited by on Tue Jan 15, 2008 4:06 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 3:52 pm

Fastball:Joba>Buchholz

Curve:Buchholz>Joba

Slider:Joba>Buchholz

Changeup:Buchholz> Joba

Control:Buchholz>Joba

Dominance:Joba>Buchholz

We havn't seen enough of either to judge either>one is better than the other

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 3:57 pm

Q: Sean from Cranford, NJ asks:
Has Chamberlain surpassed Hughes in your opinion or that of the baseball community? Is it premature to think so given Hughes status as the #1 pitching prospect this time last year?

A: John Manuel: No, it's not premature. Joba's best is better than Hughes' best. Joba didn't hold that kind of velo or two plus breaking balls or show an average changeup in college, he's gotten better with the mechanical tweaks Nardi Contreras & the Yankees have brought to him. Give Joba the credit; he's basically got Hughes' command (Hughes' greatest strength) with a much better fastball and similar, if not better, breaking stuff. I can't really say enough about Joba. I ranked him No. 1 on my personal top 50 prospects list in the Handbook, put it that way.

While I don't agree that he's the number one prospect in baseball, Manuel certainly makes a compelling case rife with detail and outside opinion. You're not even close to right in saying he has a bias that makes his opinion unsubstantiated

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 3:59 pm

Thanks to Snatch Catch from NyFans

BA on Joba




Strengths: Scouts chuckle with delight discussing Chamberlain's raw stuff, and several give him 70 or 80 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale for three different pitches. He reached 100 mph with his fastball as a reliever, and more impressively can sit at 96-97 mph when he starts. His fastball command grades at least major league average, if not higher. He also commands two breaking balls—a mid-80s slider with depth and a nasty power curveball in the low 80s. Both are strikeout pitches, and he's adept at keeping his hand on top of the curve and behind the slider. He even has shown a solid-average changeup. His arm action is clean, and his fierce competitive streak helps give him something extra when he needs it.

Then he had this to say in his chat:

Quote:
Q: Sean from Cranford, NJ asks:
Has Chamberlain surpassed Hughes in your opinion or that of the baseball community? Is it premature to think so given Hughes status as the #1 pitching prospect this time last year?

A: John Manuel: No, it's not premature. Joba's best is better than Hughes' best. Joba didn't hold that kind of velo or two plus breaking balls or show an average changeup in college, he's gotten better with the mechanical tweaks Nardi Contreras & the Yankees have brought to him. Give Joba the credit; he's basically got Hughes' command (Hughes' greatest strength) with a much better fastball and similar, if not better, breaking stuff. I can't really say enough about Joba. I ranked him No. 1 on my personal top 50 prospects list in the Handbook, put it that way.

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 4:05 pm

Originally Posted by sahara
I've never argued Callis isn't biased.

But I'm not really even seeing where Goldstein, the primary prospect guy, is biased towards the Sox at BP like it's expanded past Callis to being. Frankly, someone could much more easily say someone like Sheehan is biased towards the Yankees, given some of the things he's said about Hughes, or Silver is severely biased towards us, due to how much he loves Joba.

They make mistakes sometimes in their 'overall' judgement but throwing them as entity under the bus entirely because they don't agree with our "Everything Red Sox sucks!" agenda just doesn't work.
There is a difference between being bias and wrong. Callis is bais and should be ignored. Goldstein is just wrong.




Re: Yankees In Talks With Twins About Santana Part X
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThunderFan
Before the last 2 weeks of the season everyone thought the Mets were the best team in the NL...

I never thought they were as good as they were playing up until that point. IMHO the final two weeks were a comically timed regression to the mean. I'm guessing Maine and Perez aren't nearly as good as their first half numbers and will probably regress some this year. Has the team done anything to improve? Maybe Reyes bounces back but I'm not sure Santana puts them over the hump.

That's an aside to the point I was making. It isn't just about this year. It's in regards to Santana for the course of his contract. I don't think the Mets are set up to be competitive for the next 5-6-7 years.

I'm also more hesitant than others predicting great things for the Tigers.



Originally Posted by Javadawg44
I'm not trying to be anything except objective. The fact that the Yankees writer is the only one who rates the Yankee prospect as the #1 in baseball indicates some level of bias. I'm not disputing he's one of the top guys in any way shape or form, but there was no compelling argument in his analysis on why he should rank above Bruce.


What are you talking about? Seriously, do you have any idea what he's written at BA about the matter?

Here, just so you can actually be an informed poster, I'll hook you up.


First he wrote this to say in his description of Joba:



Quote:
Originally Posted by Snatch Catch
While I don't agree that he's the number one prospect in baseball, Manuel certainly makes a compelling case rife with detail and outside opinion. You're not even close to right in saying he has a bias that makes his opinion unsubstantiated.

Cut the hyperbole, it's boring. Each of the writers that reviewed each particular system has a natural bias towards the systems that they reviewed. Callis, Manuel, etc.



I've never argued Callis isn't biased.

But I'm not really even seeing where Goldstein, the primary prospect guy, is biased towards the Sox at BP like it's expanded past Callis to being. Frankly, someone could much more easily say someone like Sheehan is biased towards the Yankees, given some of the things he's said about Hughes, or Silver is severely biased towards us, due to how much he loves Joba.

They make mistakes sometimes in their 'overall' judgement but throwing them as an entity under the bus entirely because they don't agree with our "Everything Red Sox sucks!" agenda just doesn't work.




uote:
Originally Posted by sahara
BP is so biased against the Yankees, Sheehan picked Melky earlier today to be a big breakout player in 2008.

Bastards.
I don't remember myself or anyone here saying that Sheehan was bias against the yankees. I certainty don't think he is. I think thats a stupid prediction though.

My mistake. I was referring to BA in that post. I don't think BP is bias.




Again though, that is not BP, that is Sheehan, one guy who is employed by BP.
I do not think BP or BA or any other organizational evaluation places are biased for the Sox or against the Yankees, but you can certainly find individuals in all of those places, like Callis, who are..




Quote:
Originally Posted by sahara
The Yankee "writer" Manuel still preferred the Sox package. Even the one that doesn't make any sense to me with Lester.

Callis can be a biased tool, as he loathes Yankee fans (to some degree, I can't blame him on that) and he unprofessionally lets it show, but bringing up how "his" system is somehow flawed on a Hughes vs. Lester comp fails. Not only would they not likely be ranked the same on the internal top tens or come across the same in the scouting reports, Callis hasn't even suggested Lester > Hughes in any way since like 2005, the early parts of 2006. He's a big time fan of Hughes' talent and the worst thing he's said about him is that right now he prefers Buchholz -- FFS, he was more supportive of him when he was struggling last summer than most Yankee fans were here.

The Sox being #2 is too high, given Cincy and even Texas having what they have, but almost all of the minor league gurus -- from Sickels to Law to Goldstein -- have the Sox in the top five. I know it hurts Yankee fans, but they do have a good system. It's comparable to ours and many would rank it better. We don't have to like it for it to be widely seen that way.
The yankee-boston farm system insanity in BP's list has been gone over many many many times. The facts don't back up their bais pandering to their boston fan pals.

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 4:15 pm

JP,
You right the Yanks aging. I don’t think Jeter is going down hill. He’s marching toward 3,000 hits and keeps in shape (he’s 33 this year). Posada, Rivera, Pettitte, and Damon are getting up in years but still have a few good seasons left. Abreu will still knock in 100 runs, score 100 and steal 25 bases. I am not counting on Giambi, but he did hit 37 HR two years ago. He’s a wild card.
On the farm the Yanks got some yougn outfielders, maybe too young.
And the Yanks must find out about their young pitchers.
Now the Red Sox, Varitek is close to done (their back up is useless) Ortiz had a bum knee and is overweight; Lowell is up there in years, but still can play. Manny has had two down seasons, aging and who the hell knows what he’s thinking; JD Drew, you want to depend on Mr. Injury.
OK, so the Red Sox will get younger in center, second base, and Youklis is solid at first. Pitching, Schilling is downhill; Dice K, we don’t know he can go a whole season. Wakefield is a knuckler; Beckett is solid, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester are young and in the same ball park as the Yankees youngins.
The Twins? The less said the better at this point.

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 4:17 pm

Manny Ramirez: Declining, maybe, but far from done.

http://umpbump.com/press/manny-ramirez-declining-maybe-but-far-from-done/

Thinking about retirement?I was just over at MVN, where they note that Manny has been working hard this offseason to avoid a repeat of 2007, where he started slow and wound up hurt (it’s well worth reading for their take on his numbers). They quote Peter Gammons, who says Ramirez has become “a maniacal workout warrior in Tempe Arizona” at the Athletes’ Performance Institute.

Yet oddly enough, last year Manny supposedly showed up to Spring Training “in the best shape of his career” as well. Don’t be fooled—under that baggy, pajama-like uni, the man is rock-hard. So either he overtrained and ended up hurting himself (not likely) or he did his best and ended up hurt anyway (likelier, and more frightening). After all, the man is 35—remember when all sluggers used to start declining at 35, instead of growing second jawbones?—and the team needs Such a happy Manny!to stop thinking of him as the 150-game guy he used to be and start thinking of him as the 130-game guy he’s been for the past two seasons. Why not rest him against the Rays and the Royals throughout the season? Then maybe he won’t need a month off near the end. Or let him DH every now and then and give Ortiz the night off (for the ol’ knee). With a little more caretaking from the Sox, Manny should be able to produce at a useful level for another 3-4 years, surely. And when you consider that he’s only going to make $2 million more than Andruw Jones next year, he starts to sound almost like a bargain.

I don’t think you’ll see Manny having a 2007-like year again this year. After all, it was only in 2006 that he hit 35 dingers (in 130 games) and compiled a .439 OBP. And the man positively caught fire during the 2007 postseason, coming back after month-long break and showing absolutely no signs of rust. His work ethic is famous and his eye is unerring. (If you ever see him take a called strike three, I guarantee you the ump botched the call. Guarantee it.) So I see no reason why, with a little care and Plenty of walkoff homers left to hit.feeding, he can’t continue to protect David Ortiz in the lineup for years to come.

I think Manny Ramirez wants to retire with the Red Sox. I know, it’s been a tumultuous, on-again-off-again love affair between Boston and Manny—the trade demands, the Manny Moments, that incident with the waivers—but Manuel has two World Series rings with this team now. He and Boston have finally made peace with one another. Plus, he’s just 10 homers shy of his 500th round-tripper. He’s got a lifetime average of .313, a lifetime OBP of .409, and a lifetime OPS of 1.002. To me, he’s an easy first-ballot Hall of Famer. If he retires with Boston, they’re sure to retire his number. Is he really going to walk away from that? And is Theo really going to let him? I don’t think so.

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 4:28 pm

Freddy Manuel Tejada, 37, dies in Dominican Republic


http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3198240



On the same day that Congress asked the Defense Department to investigate whether Miguel Tejada lied to a house committee investigating steroids in baseball, word came out that the brother of the Houston Astros shortstop was killed in an automobile accident.

Freddy Manuel Tejada, 37, died Tuesday afternoon when the motorcycle he was riding collided with a sport utility vehicle in Bani, a city in the southern part of the Dominican Republic.

According to Melquiades Arias, a Bani police official, an unnamed woman with Tejada was injured in the collision and is in critical condition. She was transported to a hospital in Santo Domingo after receiving treatment at a local clinic.

"It is confirmed that Mr. Tejada died in this accident," Arias said.

Miguel Tejada received the news while traveling from Santo Domingo to San Pedro de Macoris to play in the game between the Aguilas Cibaeñas and Estrellas Orientales in the Dominican Winter League. He immediately returned to Bani to be with his family.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Henry Waxman announced Tuesday he and ranking Republican Tom Davis asked the Justice Department to look into whether Tejada lied to committee staffers in 2005 when he said he never used performance-enhancing drugs. The recently released Mitchell report describes incidences of Tejada purchasing steroids.

In the offseason, the Baltimore Orioles traded Tejada, a four-time All-Star, to the Astros for five players.

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 4:30 pm

Another Cowboys assistant has left the building

January 15, 2008 3:11 PM

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has just ordered all the exits blocked surrounding Valley Ranch. Earlier this morning, several assistant coaches were seen hurdling the hedges surrounding the practice field on their way to interview with other teams.

Jones has tried to remain positive about the prospect of losing his top two assistants on offense, but he's fighting a losing battle with Cowboys fans. A few moments ago, a Cowboys source confirmed to Hashmarks that assistant head coach Tony Sparano will be boarding one of Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga's private jets one hour from now.

Sparano will meet with Huizenga, his old boss Bill Parcells and GM Jeff Ireland for a "second interview" tonight, and I expect him to be named head coach tomorrow. This has been a foregone conclusion for weeks, but the Cowboys' 21-17 loss to the Giants obviously sped up the process.

Hopefully I'll be able to tell you something official late tonight. It's sort of a bittersweet time for Sparano. He took Sunday's loss to the Giants as hard as anyone and probably feels some guilt about having to move on so quickly.

But after a couple of glasses of red wine on South Beach tonight, Sparano may have a better outlook. Negotiations shouldn't take too long since Sparano and Parcells share the same agent in Jimmy Sexton.

If you're in the Dallas area, I'll have a lot more on this situation tonight at 5 p.m. on ESPN 103.3's "Tuesday with Mosley" hour.

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 6:08 pm

Red Sox prospects workout


Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz, left, and his teammates wear shorts as they walk past icicles and snow to an indoor practice field during the team's rookie training program at Boston College.




Red Sox prospects workout





(Left to right) Red Sox pitchers Devern Hansack (blue outfit), Clay Buchholz, and outfielder Bubba Bell walk through the snow-covered field to get to the bubble door after lifting weights



Red Sox prospects workout


Red Sox pitcher Dustin Richardson leaps a puddle to get to the bubble after lifting weights.

Red Sox prospects workout




At the Red Sox rookie program inside the practice bubble at Boston College's Alumni Stadium, Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz (left) did wind sprints with Dustin Richardson.



Red Sox prospects workout

The players paused to do some stretching.



Red Sox prospects workout

Boston Red Sox infielder Jed Lowrie did some fielding.




Red Sox prospects workout

Clay Buchholz did some running.



Red Sox prospects workout



Red Sox pitcher Devern Hansack runs during the team's rookie training program.

Red Sox prospects workout

Pitcher Devern Hansack has some water while resting between wind sprints.


Red Sox prospects workout


Red Sox prospects workout



Boston Red Sox Director of Player Development Mike Hazen looks onto the practice field.

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 6:11 pm

Encouraging prospects for Red Sox
Email|Print| Text size – + By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / January 15, 2008

http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/articles/2008/01/15/encouraging_prospects_for_red_sox/?page=2


When you looked out at the football field in the indoor bubble at Boston College's Alumni Stadium today, you saw the reason why many Red Sox fans don't want to make the Johan Santana trade.
more stories like this



You saw a confident, personable, Derek Lowe-like Justin Masterson and shortstop-of-the-future Jed Lowrie, both of whom have been mentioned in a possible trade for Santana. You saw a bulked-up, maturing Clay Buchholz, who may be the Red Sox' lone untouchable, though he may not even break camp with them, given the depth of their rotation.

The talent on the field - invited guests to the Red Sox' annual rookie development program - was a testament to how far the system has come. Baseball America, the bible of minor league baseball, ranks the Red Sox farm system second overall (Tampa Bay is first). But farm director Mike Hazen isn't getting carried away.

"We don't put too much stock in those things," Hazen said. "We know our job is to continue to push forward and help each guy maximize his potential.

"But it's a tremendous credit to our scouting department, both Jason McLeod and Craig Shipley on the international front. The work our area scouts are doing is phenomenal. It's a challenge and it's a pleasure to work with these players both as performers and as people. These are exceptional people as well as players, and that's a credit to our scouting staff."

Buchholz, who has already thrown a no-hitter in the major leagues, seemed a bit out of place today. When you've already done something most major leaguers haven't, it puts you in special company. But Hazen believes Buchholz is still developing, still in need of taking the next step.

"Even though he's pitched a no-hitter in the major leagues, he hasn't established himself over time yet," Hazen said. "Not like the Schillings, Becketts, Lowells, Ortizes - that's the next level we're shooting for.

"He's had a really good winter. We tested him the other day. He went to the API [Athletic Preparatory Institute] in Florida and he's been making gradual progress. He's up to 190 pounds and he looks as though he's grown an inch. Physically, he's put on some weight in his shoulders and his chest."

When we last left Buchholz, the Sox medical staff had shut him down in late September because his shoulder had tested for weakness and they didn't want to take any chances.

"My shoulder feels great," said Buchholz, who acknowledges he was very disappointed to learn he wouldn't be on the postseason roster. "I don't feel the fatigue anymore.

"I know what it's going to take for me to stay on the team this year. A lot of hard work and dedication goes into being prepared for 162 games, and that was my offseason this year, that was [what] I put all the dedication toward. I think I'm right at 191 [pounds] right now, actually. It's better than the 178 I was last year."Continued...

Globe Staff / January 15, 2008

When you looked out at the football field in the indoor bubble at Boston College's Alumni Stadium today, you saw the reason why many Red Sox fans don't want to make the Johan Santana trade.

You saw a confident, personable, Derek Lowe-like Justin Masterson and shortstop-of-the-future Jed Lowrie, both of whom have been mentioned in a possible trade for Santana. You saw a bulked-up, maturing Clay Buchholz, who may be the Red Sox' lone untouchable, though he may not even break camp with them, given the depth of their rotation.

The talent on the field - invited guests to the Red Sox' annual rookie development program - was a testament to how far the system has come. Baseball America, the bible of minor league baseball, ranks the Red Sox farm system second overall (Tampa Bay is first). But farm director Mike Hazen isn't getting carried away.

"We don't put too much stock in those things," Hazen said. "We know our job is to continue to push forward and help each guy maximize his potential.

"But it's a tremendous credit to our scouting department, both Jason McLeod and Craig Shipley on the international front. The work our area scouts are doing is phenomenal. It's a challenge and it's a pleasure to work with these players both as performers and as people. These are exceptional people as well as players, and that's a credit to our scouting staff."

Buchholz, who has already thrown a no-hitter in the major leagues, seemed a bit out of place today. When you've already done something most major leaguers haven't, it puts you in special company. But Hazen believes Buchholz is still developing, still in need of taking the next step.

"Even though he's pitched a no-hitter in the major leagues, he hasn't established himself over time yet," Hazen said. "Not like the Schillings, Becketts, Lowells, Ortizes - that's the next level we're shooting for.

"He's had a really good winter. We tested him the other day. He went to the API [Athletic Preparatory Institute] in Florida and he's been making gradual progress. He's up to 190 pounds and he looks as though he's grown an inch. Physically, he's put on some weight in his shoulders and his chest."

When we last left Buchholz, the Sox medical staff had shut him down in late September because his shoulder had tested for weakness and they didn't want to take any chances.

"My shoulder feels great," said Buchholz, who acknowledges he was very disappointed to learn he wouldn't be on the postseason roster. "I don't feel the fatigue anymore.

"I know what it's going to take for me to stay on the team this year. A lot of hard work and dedication goes into being prepared for 162 games, and that was my offseason this year, that was [what] I put all the dedication toward. I think I'm right at 191 [pounds] right now, actually. It's better than the 178 I was last year."
Page 2 of 2 --

The Sept. 1 no-hitter against the Orioles will forever be etched in Red Sox history. Buchholz says he gets reminded about it a lot. And he doesn't mind. But he knows he has to move on from it because there's a long way to go in his career.
more stories like this

To start with, he'll have to fight to make the rotation out of camp.

"That's the goal," Buchholz said. "I had a lot of goals coming into last year, and that's definitely my goal this year. But it's all what the organization needs and who they want to have in the rotation.

"I would love to be there. I'm going to go into spring training and try to earn a spot, but if that doesn't happen . . . that's where I want to be, by the end of the season, by midseason."

Buchholz finds himself behind Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield, and, more than likely, Jon Lester. According to Sox officials, Schilling has also had a very productive offseason with his strength program and appears far more committed than he was a year ago at this time.

"I wouldn't be disappointed," said Buchholz. "Like I said, it's their decision. I have goals. Last year, I managed to make all my goals, and if something happens and you don't make that goal, it doesn't mean it's not going to happen sometime during the season. I have hopes and wishes and goals, and that's about all I can say for you right now."

After going through his "dead shoulder phase" at the end of a long season, Buchholz vowed he would never allow that to happen again.

"That was all the motivation," said Buchholz, who is 19-10 with a 2.46 ERA over his minor league career. "I knew what I wanted to do coming into the offseason. I had never been hurt before. That was the closest I had been to it.

"It was different for me. I went into the offseason preparing and knowing what I had to do to be a part of this team this year."

The rookie development program tries to integrate the young players with the environment they'll be playing in someday. It includes charitable events, which they have attended the past couple of weeks.

Masterson, who turns 23 in March, and who played for Tony Gwynn at San Diego State, should have no problem blending in. He's engaging, personable, and smart.

Asked about his name being bandied about in trade talks, Masterson said, "It's humbling, and I feel a little bit honored. I don't know if I should be there. I don't know if I'm that level yet, but it's kind of neat. I'm one of 15, 20 names thrown out there, but it's kind of cool.

"It doesn't bother me too much. I'm with the Boston Red Sox, the greatest organization, so it's fun. Every once in a while, I'll get a text from a friend: 'I just heard this about the trade.' OK, man, have fun with that."

Lowrie, too, said he's flattered to be mentioned in trade talks involving Santana.

"How could you not be?" he said. "A pitcher like Johan Santana, he's one of the game's best. To be mentioned in something like that is pretty awesome."

Lowrie said he feels most comfortable playing shortstop, and the Red Sox appear content to have him stay there, though he has dabbled at second base and third base.

"I played some third in the fall league," he said. "I'd never really played there in my life, and it's just a matter of getting repetition. I'm willing to do whatever it takes, but I'd prefer to stay at shortstop."

Lowrie feels he could be ready for the majors right now, if the Red Sox or a team that trades for him needed him to step in.

"I feel like I could contribute," Lowrie said. "I still have a lot to learn. Wherever I go, whether that means Triple A with the Red Sox or if I end up with another team, I'm taking the same approach, no matter where I go."

When you see how far the Sox have come with their farm system, and the excitement brought by the Michael Bowdens, the Dusty Browns, the Aaron Bateses, it may be awfully hard to give some of that up, even if it's for the best lefthanded pitcher in baseball.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com
© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 6:44 pm

Packers have edge over Giants in NFC Championship Game

By Scouts Inc.


Updated: January 15, 2008, 8:01 PM ET


http://insider.espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs07/insider/news/story?id=3198213

The Packers were expected to be here. The Giants? Not so much. But now Green Bay and New York meet in the NFC Championship Game and Scouts Inc. goes position-by-position and breaks it down to find out who has the edge on advancing to Super Bowl XLII.

New York-Green Bay Tale of the Tape


Quarterback: Even though Green Bay has a huge advantage based on Brett Favre's experience and level of play this season, New York's Eli Manning never has been sharper or appeared more comfortable as a pro than he has in the last few weeks. Manning has been very efficient, taking what defenses give him and virtually eliminating mistakes. He has a great combination of size, athleticism and arm strength, is able to spot the ball into tight windows, and can make all the throws required of an NFL quarterback. But inconsistency -- specifically in his timing and accuracy -- has plagued him. A physical Packers secondary is led by CBs Charles Woodson and Al Harris, who will match up with opposing receivers anywhere in the formation. It will be up to Manning to make savvy pre-snap reads to put the Giants in position to attack the Packers' defensive schemes, especially on the back end. This should be a very good matchup: Brett Favre, Green Bay's old gunslinger, versus New York's up-and-comer Eli Manning. In three playoff games combined this season, neither Favre nor Manning has committed a turnover. Saturday's Packers win over Seattle was vintage Favre: After his club fell behind by 14 points early, Favre calmed his teammates and coolly led them back. There is no panic in him, and the rest of the Packers take their cues from that. A marginal, banged-up Giants secondary appears to be a favorable matchup for Favre, but that group has played quite effectively in the postseason, especially when it counts. Of course, here's the flip side: Tampa Bay's Jeff Garcia and Dallas' Tony Romo are no Favre. If New York can't create pressure up front, Green Bay's passing game will be in for a big day. Manning is playing well right now, but he can't win simply trading blows with one of the game's best ever.
Running back: Expect New York to continue riding the run game, specifically RB Brandon Jacobs, against a Green Bay front seven that allowed a middling 102.9 rushing yards per game in the regular season. The Giants must control the clock and have success on the ground to take pressure off Manning. Jacobs is a huge, powerful back who is very effective attacking downhill, between the tackles. Backup RB Ahmad Bradshaw has been a productive change-of-pace runner to complement Jacobs. FB Madison Hedgecock is an effective lead blocker in the Giants' base two-back scheme. MLB Nick Barnett and WLB AJ Hawk are physical, instinctive playmakers who highlight Green Bay's outstanding linebacker corps. Hedgecock must fluidly adjust his blocking angles on the second level to create space for Jacobs. Judging strictly by the numbers at season's end, the Giants seemingly have an advantage here. But in the playoffs it's one-and-done, and all that matters is here and now. Bottom line: There isn't a back left in the playoffs running as well as the Packers' Ryan Grant. Over the last eight games of the regular season, only San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson had more rushing yards than Grant. He can't afford any more lapses in ball security (two fumbles against the Seahawks), but it's probably a non-issue. Considering Grant fumbled just once in 218 carries during the regular season, Saturday's turnovers are probably a fluke. Grant shows excellent vision and very good explosiveness to and through the hole. He has deceptive speed and quickness, and can make defenders miss in space. The Giants were knocked around a bit by Cowboys RB Marion Barber Sunday; they'll have to be more physical and efficient on early downs against the Packers. Jacobs turned in a productive season, but Grant is on his way to Hawaii (and a Pro Bowl) if he's Green Bay's starter from Day One. Give Grant the edge.


Wide receivers: Hard as it may be to believe, one of the best things that could have happened to New York's passing attack was losing TE Jeremy Shockey. The result: Manning has been forced to read through his progressions and hasn't been compelled to force throws to Shockey, who usually was double-covered. The Giants will want to get WR Plaxico Burress involved on deep vertical throws early, but he likely will be mirrored by Woodson. With the attention given to Burress, WRs Amani Toomer and Steve Smith will need to step forward to win their individual matchups. Toomer, who remains a productive possession receiver, has the best hands and field awareness on the team. Smith, for his part, has begun to develop a strong chemistry with Manning during the playoffs. Both the Packers and Giants are loaded with talent here, but a bit more overall consistency puts Green Bay's receivers over the top. New York's Plaxico Burress may be the most dynamic playmaker in this game, but he's creaky right now (ankle) and was a non-factor Sunday in Dallas. Packers Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and rookie James Jones are a more disciplined group, and together rank among the league's best wideout trios. All three can play the X, Z and slot positions, which puts all kinds of pressure on opposing defenses. All run very good routes and know how to separate from coverage. And in a Green Bay offense based on precision and timing, Favre and his receivers very rarely aren't on the same page. For the Packers, success in the passing game boils down to whether or not their pass protection holds up on the edges. If the Giants can't get to Favre or at least flush him from the pocket, he and his receivers will dominate -- and the Packers will be on their way to Glendale.


Tight end: The Packers have a decisive edge here. Losing Shockey for the season was a huge blow for the Giants, though rookie fifth-round selection Kevin Boss at least has been consistent. He's a decent point-of-attack blocker who has some functional strength. He's a big, inviting target in the short underneath areas and knows how to use his size to shield defenders from the ball. He has above-average hands and is athletic enough to make tough catches in traffic. But expect Boss to be heavily involved in the protection schemes against Packers DEs Aaron Kampman and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, whose speed and relentlessness pose a lot of problems on the edge. If Shockey were playing, the Giants might have earned the nod at this position. But now Donald Lee and Bubba Franks give the Packers superior talent and depth at this position. Lee, a solid receiving threat, has the speed to stretch the field and greatly benefits from regularly drawing single coverage. Because Green Bay has three legitimate threats at wideout, opposing safeties often are needed to help on two of the three against three-receiver sets, leaving Lee to be covered primarily by a linebacker. New York's linebackers are solid against the run, but none of them are particularly fast or fluid, which means Lee usually will enjoy a mismatch on Sunday.


Offensive line: A New York offensive line that averages more than 315 pounds deserves a slight advantage over Green Bay's front five. The Giants must be effective controlling the interior of the Packers' defense. C Shaun O'Hara, the leader of this unit, doesn't provide a huge push, but he has enough functional strength to gain position to create inside lanes. The right side of the offensive line is its strength. RG Chris Snee is an excellent drive blocker, and RT Kareem McKenzie is physical in the run game. Though the Packers faltered against the run somewhat down the stretch, a deep line rotation keeps the front four fresh and at least ensures they won't be worn down late in the game. But the strength of the front seven is the linebackers, a speedy, instinctive group that will consistently make stops if Barnett and Hawk are kept clean. If the Giants are going to pull off the upset, they must control the trenches. The offensive and defensive lines are the two closest calls in a comparison of these teams' respective units. Instead of breaking down these groups player by player, we incorporated the matchups -- and for that reason the Giants get the nod here. The Packers' inside trio of C Scott Wells and Gs Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz have saved their best football for the end of the season. Wells, in particular, is quickly developing into one of the game's best young centers. Surprisingly, Green Bay's weakness is at the tackle position; LT Chad Clifton and RT Mark Tauscher are starting to slow down. They appear as skilled as ever some weeks, but in others they struggle -- usually against quality edge speed. They caught a break Sunday against an explosive Seattle front when a wet, snow-covered field kept the Seahawks' linemen from finding their footing. New York's elite edge rushers -- DEs Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora -- can win with speed and power, which by itself would cause matchup problems for Clifton and Tauscher. (Throw in Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's blitzing, and things get really hairy.) Both offensive lines are very good, and both face high-quality defensive fronts on the other side. The team that wins more battles at the line of scrimmage earns a decisive edge.

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 6:50 pm

I think that the professional Japanese baseball league could partialy explain this difference between the Mets and the Red Sox and Yankees.

In Japan, professional teams often spend more than they make. Making the team a negative investment for the parent company. There is a limit that a team can make in a season (through advertisement and ticket prices), so it is understandable that a team can overspend even if they are a team often flirting with dynasties (the Yomiuri Giants are often compared to the Yankees for their spending and historical success).

However, don't confuse this as the owners of the teams spending to win and not making this into a business; in fact, Japanese baseball is much more of a business than American baseball. The teams are not named after their home city, but instead after their company (Yomiuri owns the Giants). The parent company uses the team to build revenue through other entities that it owns, such as the railways that bring fans to the stadium, the media outlets that cover the team (in Japan, teams are usually only represented by their own media outlets, meaning that a fan of the Yomiuri Giants will find out almost nothing about the Chunichi Dragons through local media, including the TV).

This is where the Red Sox and Yankees are going. I believe that the Yankees are not making a profit off of the item on the field, and are instead spending much more than they make (especially considering how highly they are taxed by revenue sharing), but are instead capitalizing on their media outlet (YES, which is sold around the world) and their brand.

The Red Sox are getting there, and maybe even passed the Yankees, with NESN averaging more viewers per night than YES last season.

The Mets are following the same track as the Red Sox were in the late 90's early 2000's. They are building a strong team and are making an image, while broadcasting through their own media outlet. Perhaps the Mets will take it to the next level, perhaps they won't. We can't predict that, but I believe that your viewpoint is severely damaged if the Mets do acquire and extend Johan Santana.

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 7:08 pm

http://www.nbcsports.com/portal/site/nbcsports/menuitem.6f806e473b4cb158fb00ec22493c2d04/?vgnextoid=dfa4de0e2df77110VgnVCM10000075c1d240RCRD&vgnextchannel=9f23d5e59df02110VgnVCM100000dc032c03RCRD&vgnextfmt=default



Pats to honor young fan booed in Indy
Updated: Jan15, 2008, 08:25 PM EST

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The Patriots signed WR Wes Welker for a one-year deal worth $1.35 million and gave up second- and seventh-round draft picks to the Dolphins, and the move has paid off for New England. With a touchdown catch in Week 1 of the 2007 season, Welker equaled his touchdown total from three season with the Dolphins and is on pace to enjoy the best season of his career.
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Just 10 games into the season, safety James Sanders already surpassed his tackle total of 43 from last season. His increased effort and production have benefited the entire Patriots team.
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Looking to bolster their corps of running backs, in the offseason the Patriots signed Sammy Morris to a four-year, $7 million dollar contract. Before being placed on injured reserve on November 2, Morris racked up 384 rushing yards on 85 carries and found the end zone three times.
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Although he has made 11 of 12 field goal attempts this season, Stephen Gostkowski has had much more time on the field because of his extra point responsibilities. With the Patriots' offense clicking on all cylinders, Gostkowski has been busy. He is a perfect 54-for-54 on extra points this season.
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His attitude caused trouble on previous teams, but the only trouble linked with WR Randy Moss now is the kind he's giving opponents. On pace to break his own single-season records, Moss recorded four 100+ yard games in his first four games with a new team, the only player in NFL history to do so. He also set a record with 16 TDs in his first 10 games with a new team.
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Adalius Thomas is making the Patriots grateful for every dollar they spent to lure the linebacker to New England. After signing a five-year, $35 million dollar deal in the offseason, Thomas has started strong in his first season with the Patriots, ranking among the top on the team in tackles.
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Despite missing three games with a groin injury toward the beginning of the season, running back Laurence Maroney still leads the Patriots in carries and rushing yards. The second-year pro has over 2,000 all-purpose yards with New England in his two years with the team.
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With a hole at the tight end position, the Patriots signed Kyle Brady with a two-year contract in the offseason. The 13-year NFL veteran's experience has made a valuable contribution to the already strong New England offense.
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With running back Kevin Faulk on the field, the Patriots have a bonafide dual threat. In his nine-year NFL career, Faulk has over 2500 yards both rushing and receiving. So far this season, he already has more rushing yards than he had either of the two previous years.
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For nine weeks this season, Ellis Hobbs held the record for the longest kickoff return in NFL history, running 108 yards for a score in Week 1. That record was eclipsed in Week 9, but Hobbs' impact has still been considerable both on special teams and on defense. He recorded his first career sack earlier this season.
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When the Patriots signed WR Donte Stallworth in the offseason to a six-year, $30M deal, they included clauses where continued employment and payment were contingent on Stallworth performing well. His job appears secure, as Stallworth has stepped up his receiving game. He is New England's third-most prolific receiver behind Randy Moss and Wes Welker.
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A vocal leader in addition to an on-field leader, linebacker Tedy Bruschi is one of the anchors on the New England defense. He is one of the Patriots' top tacklers.
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Looking healthy for the first time in awhile, linebacker Junior Seau is doing more than just recording tackles. He is also sharing his experience and enthusiasm with the rest of the team as one of the Patriots' seven captains.
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Not only has Tom Brady led the Patriots to a perfect start, but he has also achieved numerous personal achievements along the way. Those include career and franchise highs with six passing TDs in a single game, the most TDs in a season and the most career TD passes, and a career- and franchise-first with a perfect passer rating.
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Opposing quarterbacks beware; Mike Vrabel is coming for you. The linebacker leads the Patriots in sacks and is among New England's tackling leaders. His tackles do more than just end a play, though; he is also adept at stripping the ball and forcing fumbles.
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Although an ankle injury kept tight end Benjamin Watson from playing in two games this season for the Patriots, Benjamin Watson is still one of New England's top targets for Tom Brady.


The Patriots signed WR Wes Welker for a one-year deal worth $1.35 million and gave up second- and seventh-round draft picks to the Dolphins, and the move has paid off for New England. With a touchdown catch in Week 1 of the 2007 season, Welker equaled his touchdown total from three season with the Dolphins and is on pace to enjoy the best season of his career.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- Patriots owner Robert Kraft sat behind his wide desk and marveled at how his team's jersey could be the target of so many boos -- even when it's worn by a 14-year-old girl.

This wasn't Randy Moss or Rodney Harrison hearing the catcalls. They're used to it.

This was Anna Grant, a high school freshman who had worked hard to win the Punt, Pass & Kick competition in her age group as the team's representative.

When she was introduced along with the other winners before the fourth quarter of San Diego's playoff win last Sunday, she was the only one booed by the crowd in Indianapolis, home of New England's fiercest rival.

"Why should a champion be booed?" the boss of the three-time Super Bowl winners said Tuesday. "She won an intensive competition. She's supposed to be honored."

His team is getting the same reaction -- not because of the spying incident in the season opener but because fans like to see teams at the top get knocked off, he said. If the Chargers can't do it Sunday, New England will be headed to its fourth Super Bowl in seven seasons.

But first comes the coin flip before the AFC championship and Grant will be out on the field for that, invited by Kraft, who felt badly that she had been booed.

"What I decided is that we would honor her here before this game," Kraft said in an interview in his office filled with photos, footballs and other memorabilia. "We will recognize her as
the winner on the field. Our fans will know."

Grant returned from school Tuesday and heard a phone message from Andre Tippett, the Patriots' executive director of community affairs and a former star linebacker.

She called back and was ecstatic when Tippett extended the invitation -- plus tickets for her, her parents and two brothers -- to take part.

"I was just in shock," she said.

Kraft knows the hoots were not directed at the high school freshman from Stratham, N.H., about 20 miles north of the Massachusetts border. It's just that the jersey provokes an instant response, usually a negative one.

Grant also understands, and even smiled when she heard the boos.

"Before I went down there, my friends said, `You know, you'll probably get booed,"' she said in a telephone interview. "I was kind of waiting for it.

"It really didn't bother me at all," she added. "People at the game came up to me afterward and said, `It's not you. It's your jersey."'

It wasn't always that way.

When Adam Vinatieri's last-play field goal gave the Patriots their first championship as huge underdogs to the St. Louis Rams after the 2001 season, red, white and blue confetti -- not boos -- poured down in the Louisiana Superdome.

It came less than five months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"I remember saying when I hoisted the (championship) trophy, `We are all Patriots and tonight the Patriots are world champions,"' Kraft said. "We were the underdogs. No one expected (it). Now what's happened is, we've had a modicum of success.

"I noticed it with the second title that we went after. Already people had switched and I think people outside of New England want to see different (winners). It's sort of like the Yankees. There was a resentment, but a respect for the Yankees."

The Yankees have declined since their dominance of the late 90s. The Patriots are better than ever, perhaps the best team in NFL history.

"Jealousy and envy comes in the more you win and people say, `Give someone else a chance and let someone else do it,"' Kraft said. "I understand that."

It's better than the alternative.

Before he bought the team in January 1994, the Patriots had missed the playoffs for the previous seven seasons. In just his third year, they were in the Super Bowl -- losing to Green Bay in the same building where they would win their first title five years later.

At least fans care now, even if they boo.

"I see it as sort of respect in a way," Kraft said. "I think 15 years ago, 18 years ago, someone could have worn our jersey and I just think there would have been no reaction."

Grant plans to wear some Patriots apparel again Sunday, probably a hat. The reaction will be much warmer.

"In a way, the fact that this young lady was booed is a compliment to the New England Patriots fans because we're relevant," Kraft said. "And, we're good."

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 7:36 pm

Grant looks for revenge against New York

http://insider.espn.go.com/nfl/scouting?gameId=280120009

Why To Watch
Packers QB Brett Favre is one step away from another Super Bowl, and the Giants are peaking at just the right time, having won nine consecutive road games. A Manning has reached the conference championship bracket and, surprisingly, his name isn't Peyton. This is a rematch of these teams' Week 2 meeting, in which the Giants were crushed at the Meadowlands.

New York offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride will continue to strike a balance while trying to take pressure off QB Eli Manning. Expect Green Bay defensive coordinator Bob Sanders to load up the box and force Manning to beat his defense through the air. Packers coach Mike McCarthy, for his part, figures to attack with RB Ryan Grant to set up a quick, controlled passing game and slow the Giants' explosive pass rush.

Before the season, few would have believed either of these teams had a shot at playing in the Super Bowl. Giants coach Tom Coughlin was on the hot seat and considered at risk of losing his job by midseason, and many questioned whether Favre should still be playing, but both have proved their critics wrong.




When the Giants have the ball
Rushing: Gilbride has done a great job of mixing the run and the pass while exploiting play-action within the structure of the offense and easing the burden on Manning. Expect the Giants to lean heavily on RB Brandon Jacobs again against a Packers run defense that slipped in the second half of the season. FB Madison Hedgecock has been very effective as a lead blocker in New York's standard two-back offense, and he will lead the way for Jacobs. Hedgecock is extremely well-built with great lower-body strength and is an explosive lead blocker at the point of contact. The Giants' offensive line averages more than 315 pounds and must be effective controlling the interior of Green Bay's defense.

Sanders has shown a knack for using multiple fronts and attacking blocking patterns with run-blitz schemes based on opposing personnel groupings and down-and-distance. The line is a sturdy group, and RDE Cullen Jenkins has been particularly tough against the run. Leading a very effective linebacker corps are MLB Nick Barnett and WLB A.J. Hawk, who have outstanding instincts and playmaking skills. Expect Sanders to align SS Atari Bigby near the line of scrimmage on downs with heavy run tendencies in an effort to put Manning in less manageable passing situations.



Passing: Manning has a great combination of size, athleticism and arm strength, and he has been very efficient in recent weeks. Taking what defenses give him while eliminating mistakes and turnovers, he has thrown four touchdowns and no interceptions in the playoffs. Manning can make any throw and fit the ball into small windows, but his timing and accuracy are inconsistent. The Giants have scaled back on the complexity of their movement and shifts, which has helped Manning in his pre-snap reads. New York will spread the field with multiple groupings and attack different levels with WRs Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer and Steve Smith, based on their individual matchups. He must continue to play at a high level against a good Green Bay secondary, led by CBs Charles Woodson and Al Harris.

The Packers play a lot of quarter-coverage schemes on the back end, allowing their corners to match up in bump-and-run coverage and expanding the linebackers' underneath zones. With excellent speed at linebacker, the defense can close a lot of windows quickly, forcing Manning to squeeze throws into tight spots. Sanders will rely mostly on a four-man rush, mixing in occasional zone dogs and overload blitz pressures to attack the right side of the Giants' offensive line.



When the Packers have the ball
Rushing: The foundation of McCarthy's game plan will be setting up Green Bay's passing attack and slowing New York's pass rush with a strong ground game. Last week, Grant carried 27 times for 201 yards, a franchise postseason rushing record. Expect the Packers to continue relying on outside stretch plays while mixing in inside zone runs to keep the Giants honest. Green Bay's offensive linemen are athletic and understand angles and body position when creating space. C Scott Wells has developed into a solid player and has stabilized the once-suspect interior line. He won't blow anyone off the ball, but he's consistent. He'll need to be against New York's upfield-attacking 4-3 scheme.

DEs Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora leave the Giants' defense light on the edges, which places a lot of pressure on MLB Antonio Pierce. Though he won't meet running backs in head-on collisions at the line, Pierce has the instincts and range within the box to be extremely effective. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will try to disrupt the flow and rhythm of the Packers' running game by incorporating run dogs with his linebackers on likely rushing downs.



Passing: This will be a great matchup between Green Bay's multilayered passing attack and New York's relentless pass rush. Given his age and the relative youth surrounding him, Favre has been nothing short of amazing this season. In the past, Favre might have pressed and committed game-changing mistakes on a team with a similar makeup. However, he has trusted McCarthy's system, getting the ball to his playmakers on the perimeter. The challenge this week: making the right protection calls to give Favre enough time in the pocket to exploit an average Giants secondary. Favre will want to attack New York's back end with short throws that get the ball into the hands of his playmakers (WRs Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and James Jones) outside and allow them space to run after the catch.

Spagnuolo's blitz-happy scheme will create a lot of one-on-one edge matchups for Strahan and Umenyiora. Green Bay will counter with multiple personnel groupings and some spread formations, while frequently placing a tight end on the right side to help RT Mark Tauscher on Strahan and offsetting a back on Umenyiora's side. But handling the Giants' pressure won't be easy, and Favre must make quick, accurate coverage reads.



Special Teams

The Packers' coverage units played well against the Seahawks in blizzard conditions this past week, and kicker Mason Crosby gave the kickoff team enough time to get downfield and make plays. If weather conditions are similar Sunday, Green Bay will have an edge over New York in this area. Giants punt returner R.W. McQuarters had a key return against the Cowboys, a good sign heading into a matchup in which field position will be crucial. These teams' return men aren't particularly explosive, but both teams have a number of good core players who know how to tackle.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 7:45 pm

Will Giants Defense will continue to play well despite injuries in a secondary?


I think Packers Coach Mike McCarthy will utilize Ryan Grant early and to set up a quick, controlled passing game and slow the Giants' explosive pass rush.

Greenbay Defensive Coordinator Sanders has shown alot in the past for using multiple fronts and attacking blocking patterns with run-blitz schemes based on opposing personnel groupings and down-and-distance. The line is a sturdy group, and RDE Cullen Jenkins has been particularly tough against the run. Leading a very effective linebacker corps are MLB Nick Barnett and WLB A.J. Hawk, who have outstanding instincts and playmaking skills. I Expect GB Defensive Coordinator Sanders to align SS Atari Bigby near the line of scrimmage on downs with heavy run tendencies in an effort to put Manning in less manageable passing situations.



I think The Packers will play a lot of quarter-coverage schemes on the back end, allowing their corners to match up in bump-and-run coverage and expanding the linebackers' underneath zones. With excellent speed at linebackesr, the defense can close a lot of windows quickly, forcing Eli to squeeze throws into tight spots. I think Defensive Coordinator Green Bay Packers Bob Sanders will rely mostly on a four-man rush, mixing in occasional zone dogs and overload blitz pressures to attack the right side of the Giants' offensive line.

Brett Favre will try to exploit an average Giants secondary. Favre will want to attack New York's back end with short throws that get the ball into the hands of his playmakers (WRs Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and James Jones) outside and allow them space to run after the catch.

GO Giants , please beat the Packers in lambaeu.

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Re: Twins betting Santana Stakes still 3-horse race

Post  RedMagma on Tue Jan 15, 2008 7:52 pm

Will Giants Defense will continue to play well despite injuries in a secondary?


I think Packers Coach Mike McCarthy will utilize Ryan Grant early and to set up a quick, controlled passing game and slow the Giants' explosive pass rush.

Greenbay Defensive Coordinator Sanders has shown alot in the past for using multiple fronts and attacking blocking patterns with run-blitz schemes based on opposing personnel groupings and down-and-distance. The line is a sturdy group, and RDE Cullen Jenkins has been particularly tough against the run. Leading a very effective linebacker corps are MLB Nick Barnett and WLB A.J. Hawk, who have outstanding instincts and playmaking skills. I Expect GB Defensive Coordinator Sanders to align SS Atari Bigby near the line of scrimmage on downs with heavy run tendencies in an effort to put Manning in less manageable passing situations.



I think The Packers will play a lot of quarter-coverage schemes on the back end, allowing their corners to match up in bump-and-run coverage and expanding the linebackers' underneath zones. With excellent speed at linebackesr, the defense can close a lot of windows quickly, forcing Eli to squeeze throws into tight spots. I think Defensive Coordinator Green Bay Packers Bob Sanders will rely mostly on a four-man rush, mixing in occasional zone dogs and overload blitz pressures to attack the right side of the Giants' offensive line.

Brett Favre will try to exploit an average Giants secondary. Favre will want to attack New York's back end with short throws that get the ball into the hands of his playmakers (WRs Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and James Jones) outside and allow them space to run after the catch.

Go Giants , please beat the Packers in Lambaeu.

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