Monday, November 1, 2010

Quick Hits on the San Francisco Giants

1. World Series Champs. Boom. They'll take a ton of confidence into 2011 to do it again.

2. If they are to compete to repeat in 2011, their pitching staff will anchor their success. That was the case throughout the regular season, and throughout the playoffs. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain will be the 1-2 punch for the team. Madison Bumgarner continues to grow, with a sharp World Series performance under his belt. He's only 21, but the team has a world of belief that he'll be around for a long time. Jonathan Sanchez, put on the backburner because of a mediocre World Series performance, will hopefully continue to grow. He needs to work on his command, avoiding games of 5+ walks. He has nasty stuff to get strikeouts every night. Finally, Barry Zito, San Francisco's $126 million dollar man, will be back. They obviously cannot trade him. They would like to get confidence instilled in him again, take pressure off him to be a main component, and let him quietly do his work.

3. Which Giants "misfits" will return? Cody Ross, Pat Burrell and Jose Guillen all are question marks. In my opinion, bring back Ross, and leave the other two. Burrell's atrocious World Series performance (see 0-13, 11 Ks), may lead the team to believe he's running out of gas. They may not want to risk that happening again late in 2011. An outfield of Cody Ross, Andres Torres and Aaron Rowand/Nate Schierholtz is forseeable. Perhaps Travis Ishikawa will start at first and Aubrey Huff will see time in the outfield. Its safe to assume Uribe and Freddy Sanchez will anchor the middle of the infield. Pablo Sandoval may get another shot to reclaim his shot at 3B. World Series MVP Edgar Rentaria hinted at both retiring and not retiring, leaving all sorts of uncertainty with him in 2011. Buster Posey will, of course, start at catcher. Eli Whiteside may depart in search of more full-time duties. Free agency is certainly unpredictable, there is no saying what sort of misfits or strong players may join the club.

4. Brian Wilson will again be the man in the Giants' bullpen. I forsee most of those guys returning. Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt are critical lefties in relief. Sergio Romo has a bright future, as do Santiago Casilla and Ramon Ramirez. Guillermo Mota is a question mark.

5. Pitchers and catchers report in 13 weeks!

Quick Hits on the Texas Rangers

1. The Rangers fell 3-1 to the San Francisco Giants on Monday night, ending their stellar 2010 campaign. Texas won their first postseason series in franchise history, beating the Rays, before beating the Yankees to advance to the World Series.

2. Cliff Lee was a stud for the Rangers, until the World Series. Even in Game 5, he just was damaged by one pitch too far inside, which Edgar Rentaria promptly deposited into the first rows of the left-center field bleachers. Now the issue is that he will not pitch in any other games for Texas. Instead, chances are highest that he'll probably end up pitching for the New York Yankees next season.

3. Darren Oliver and Vladimir Guerrero both may not return. Each have team options, so it will be interesting to see how those play out. Vlad's offense was solid during the regular season, but he can only be the Rangers' DH and he hurt them defensively in the World Series.

4. Colby Lewis and C.J. Wilson will still be studs at the front end of the rotation. Each is gaining more and more talent as they progress, and each had some very quality games in the postseason. The franchise has a boatload of confidence in these two entering 2011.

5. Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz will highlight the middle of the batting order next year. Elvis Andrew and Michael Young will lead the way at the front of the order. The team will still be strong offensively in 2011.


The 2010 MLB World Series Champions are the San Francisco Giants.

Kudos to World Series MVP Edgar Rentaria, whose 3-run home run fueled the Giants 3-1 victory in Game 5, to clinch the series for the Giants.

Brian Wilson finished it up.

Fear The Beard, baby.

Halloween College Rewind

Week 9 in the 2010 NCAA football season is behind us, and two more unbeaten teams unfortunately chalked up their first number in the loss column. Only five unbeatens remain, and one is guaranteed to go down this coming weekend, when #3 TCU visits #5 Utah.

Missouri (7-1), previously #6 in the nation, was run over by Nebraska (7-1) senior running back Roy Helu Jr., who rushed for 307 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Tigers now drop to #12 in the BCS Standings and need one Nebraska loss, combined with winning the remainder of their own games, in order to be in first place in the Big 12 North. Missouri will need to fight another letdown this weekend at Texas Tech, as well as face a tough road matchup with Iowa State on November 20. Nebraska, meanwhile, has only Big 12 lowlights Colorado and Kansas remaining, as well as a matchup on the road against Texas A&M.

Michigan State (8-1), previously #5 in the nation, was blasted 37-6 on the road against Iowa. The Spartans had escaped Northwestern with late road win the week before, and could not muster up much effort against Iowa. HUGE kudos to the Hawkeyes defense for intercepting three passes from Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins and shutting down the Spartans offense. Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi completed 11 of 15 passes for 190 yards and 3 touchdowns to pace the Hawkeyes offensive attack. "Did we come unprepared? I don't think so," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio told ESPN after the game. "Did things snowball on us? I guess they did." Dantonio was coaching from the sideline for only the second time since returning from a heart condition that kept him away from the team much of October. Michigan State, Iowa, Ohio State and Wisconsin now all lead the Big 10, with one loss each in conference play. Wisconsin and Michigan State each only have games remaining against teams lower in the confernce, while Iowa hosts Ohio State in a critical game on November 20. The winner of that game will keep themselves in the hunt for the Big 10 title, and a bid to the Rose Bowl, or better.

The remaining undefeated teams include Oregon, Auburn, TCU, Boise State and Utah, who are ranked in that order in the most recently released BCS Standings.

The Ducks remaining slate includes home games versus Washington and Arizona, and road contests at California and Oregon State. The top challenges will likely be the matchups to close out the season, starting November 26 with Arizona, followed by the annual Civil War in Corvallis on December 4. Both the Wildcats and Beavers have Rose Bowl aspirations of their own, which may only be plausible by beating the Ducks.

Auburn, 51-31 winners over the weekend against Ole Miss, still face Chattanoga and Georgia at home before closing out their regular season on November 26 at Alabama. The game against the Crimson Tide easily poses the biggest threat to the Tigers, and is also Alabama's best chance to return to the National Title converstation. Cam Newton continues to lead the Tigers with his arm and his legs, making him one of the leading Heisman Trophy Candidates.

TCU faces its toughest remaining test this weekend at #5 (and unbeaten) Utah. The Horned Frogs follow up this weekends matchup with games against San Diego State and New Mexico, in which TCU will be major favorite. As it stands, the Horned Frogs are 6-point favorites this weekend for the game in Salt Lake City, which will likely decide the Mountain West conference champion and be the factor in which teams earns a BCS bowl berth.

Boise State continues to suffer from the ease of its WAC conference slate, losing votes in the polls and points in the BCS standings. The 7-0 Broncos have home games remaining against Hawaii, Fresno State and Utah State, and road games at Idaho and Nevada. The November 26 game at Nevada poses the biggest threat to the Broncos undefeated season, but as long as TCU remains ahead of the Broncos (or Utah beats TCU and ergo jumps over Boise), even an undefeated season from Boise State would still leave uncertainity upon the announcement of the postseason bowl matchups. Only one non-BCS school (a MWC school or WAC school is among that category) is assured a spot in a BCS bowl, and all signs currently point to TCU or Utah finishing ahead of Boise.

Utah has been the team to most quietly navigate to its currently undefeated record, rising up from the edge of the polls to #5. The Utes are led by their offense, which is third in the nation at 45.3 points per game, but also feature a defense allowing only 14.1 points per game, good for sixth in the country. The Utes most challenging remaining game is clearly this weekend hosting #3 TCU, but the Utes must remain focused for road contests at Notre Dame and San Diego State, as well as the annual Holy War versus BYU to close out the year. A win over TCU would probably sway the voters to move Utah to #3, jumping TCU and Boise State.

Other notable notes from this past weekend include:

-UC Davis suffering a 55-24 loss at home to Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds concluded their Great West conference play, finishing 4-0 in conference, with a postseason birth likely on the horizon. The Aggies travel to North Dakota and Cal Poly over the two upcoming weekends, then finish their 2010 campaign at home in the annual Causeway Classic against Sacramento State on November 20.

-Miami suffered a 24-19 road loss at Virginia, severly damaging the Hurricanes hopes of competing with Virginia Tech for the ACC Coastal title. Losing quarterback Jacory Harris early in the game due to a concussion was a huge blow to Miami.

-Notre Dame lost 28-27 at home against Tulsa. The same Fighting Irish team who nearly beat Michigan State, the same Fighting Irish team who beat Big East leader Pittsburgh, and the same Fighting Irish who tragically lost football cameraman Declan Sullivan in an accident this past week. A very tumultuous and inexplicable season for Notre Dame.

-Texas lost at home for the second consecutive week, dropping the Longhorns to 4-4 overall. Baylor came into Austin and dealt Texas a 30-22, giving the Bears their first win over Texas since 1997. Baylor, now 7-2 and ranked #21 in the BCS Standings, is having a tremendous season.

-Florida bested Georgia 34-31 in overtime, keeping the Gators in second place in the SEC East behind South Carolina. The November 13 game at Florida against the Gamecocks will likely decide who will go to the SEC championship game.