Why Luka is going to win MVP this season

The MVP award is always an interesting yet controversial award during the NBA season. Heated debates and conversations will be had and everyone is going to state their case why their pick should win or has won. To some people, it’s all about numbers, to other people it’s about where the team is. This year we have a handful of guys who have been playing absolutely fantastic basketball this season, and any one of them truly could win it. We have players like the constantly improving Jayson Tatum, former 2x MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and last 2 years MVP winner, Nikola Jokic the current Vegas favorite this year so far, all of whom are having outstanding years. 

The last 5 winners of the MVP have come from a team that had around a 70% or better win percentage as a team. So definitely how good your team is, has shown to be a factor in deciding MVP.  But, you just shouldn’t be a 35 point scorer or a 15 rebound guy and be on a team that’s garbage. As an MVP, yes, you have to be a phenomenal player, but you also have to be a leader on the team and lead that group of guys as well as you can, to make other players better. You have to be the cog that makes that team good.
And there’s no other player in the league that does that better right now than Luka Doncic. 
Luka has led the Mavs to the 5th best record in the West with a bunch of second rounders and undrafted players.  Without the 6-7 PG on this team, they’re lucky to win 20 games for the season. 

Luka Doncic is playing out of his mind.
There are a lot of great players in the mix, but none are doing what he is doing this year.  Not to mention the fact that he’s got 9 games of 40pts or more so far. When he destroyed the Knicks for 60 points 21 rebounds and 10 assists, that truly is, and was, one of the greatest games in NBA history. Yes, he can be a ball dominant player, and he’s not one to give up the ball and move around without it. But the bottom line is, even as a player who has the ball in his hands what seems like 80% of the time every possession, he continually keeps everybody involved. And when you’re one of the other guys, and you know that he’s going to be ball dominant, all you have to do is move around, and his vision will get the ball to the right person as his 8.8 apg verifies. 

Without him, this team will be looking at a lottery pick and probably in the top 4 or 5 picks, he’s got that kind of impact for this team. There’s just nobody better than Luka right now in the NBA as far as being the best player on the team and the best player overall. Not to say that Tatum or Jokic aren’t excellent players and they certainly deserve to be in the conversation. But what Luka Doncic is doing this year is definitely worth being the MVP.
He is the player that adds the most value to the team and improves their odds for a deep playoff run.

I think this year’s MVP is Luka’s to lose. 
I’m not saying Dinwiddie or Christian Wood are scrubs, but when your next best players are those guys and you’re only a handful of games out of 1st in the west, you’re really carrying a team.

A bigger disappointment, QB Matt Ryan or Russell Wilson

The Colts went out and made their big quarterback signing this year in the off season when they picked up 38-year-old Matt Ryan. A former MVP and a quarterback with great play and respect in his 14 years playing the position. The Colts have had some really raunchy recent history with QBs. Seemingly always just trying to find that one last piece for the team to make some real noise. When Andrew Luck retired back in 2018 and left the team scrambling for who was going to be the team leader, they went through Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, and of course, now they picked up Matt Ryan. 

But Matt Ryan’s season this year has been anything but what the Colts have been expecting or hoping from him. With a season of 4 out of 7 games below 252 yards and the season total of 9 TDs and 3 interceptions so far with just a 43.8 QBR, the 6-4 former Boston College quarterback has just been a disaster. Now granted the Colts have a running back in Jonathan Taylor who when healthy, they can fully expect to lean on and wanted to use Matt Ryan basically as a backup of insurance to move the ball through the air. So Matt Ryan’s job was really just to help the ship remain straight. Philip Rivers went 11-5, Carson Wentz had a record of 9-8, the offense for Rivers was 9th in the NFL, and the offense for Wentz was 9th in the NFL. Ryan on the other hand had the Colts sitting at 30th in the NFL and they’re looking more like a 6-7 win team right now. 

Now the Broncos went out and picked up Russell Wilson, the 34-year-old quarterback from Seattle. Wilson, a 12-year veteran that came in with 37,059 career passing yards and 292 career touchdown passes would certainly be expected to bring some quarterback power to your team. Wilson went to a team that had some good wide receivers in Cortland Sutton and Jerry Judy along with a really nice double running back tag team with Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams. And as of this article, Russell Wilson has put up just a 58.8% completion rate, 6 TDs and 35.5 QBR this year and has Denver bumbling along on offense putting up just 15.1 /game. 

Russell Wilson has had 3 games where he threw for a 54% completion rate or worse, and still has not had more than 2 touchdowns in a game. Denver wom 7 games last year with a quarterback carousel with the offensive line that they have in the wide receivers and the running backs. It makes you wonder why hasn’t Russell brought this team to another level? A QB of his status and skill set would surely be able to bring them another 3-4 wins, especially with a pair of 900 yard WRs on the team in 2021.

Matt Ryan lost his starting job to a 24 year old kid Sam Ehlinger. Nobody coming into the 2022 campaign – would have expected to see their veteran signing get pushed to the bench. But, when all that is said is done, with the amount of collateral that was used to get Russell Wilson and the amount of skilled offensive weapons that Denver has, the Broncos still definitely have been the most disappointed in their big offseason quarterback pickup. Don’t be disappointed with your NFL Football picks, be sure to visit VegasTopDogs today!

What is Kevin Durant’s legacy?

There’s no question that Kevin Durant is one of the all-time best players in the history of the NBA. He’s got a smooth shot, grace when going to the rim, he’s very silky. He’s fun to watch, he is definitely shown to have the ability to score points with ease, with a career average of 27.2  ppg and having 13 seasons scoring 25 ppg or more, and 4 scoring titles. But with Kevin Durant’s exceptional play on the court there are other characteristics about him that just don’t sit well. Putting aside his stoic and crabby demeanor, which can make him difficult to like – but that’s just his personality. What I’m talking about is his mental toughness and his heart. 

This off season was no different – when Kevin Durant was at it again. It always seems when he can’t win fast enough with a loaded team, he always seems to start screaming to be traded to yet another loaded team.  And one of the biggest problems I always have is the fact that he always seems to want to go to teams that are already well established.  Now I get that some might argue and say that that’s smart, take the path of least resistance, and I get it. I understand that logic, but the fact is, it makes someone look weak if they’re just jumping on an already powerful team. If you’re a player that’s supposed to be a leader, you shouldn’t want to join other players, they should want to join you.  You’re the one that should be leading your team, not just going and adding your skills to another team. He’s becoming just a “hired gun” to go anywhere to bring another skilled player to a team and then trade him off. 

Today’s NBA is the ring chasing era… it just seems like it’s all about finding the easiest path to get a ring. So much emphasis is put on “the chip.” Players only have this mentality that they’re not going to be considered a “great player” if they don’t have “X amount of rings.” Everybody wants to win the ring, of course that’s the whole drive of competitiveness is to win, to be the best you can be, to have the best team. They all want the ring, but they all want the easiest way to get it.  Nobody seems to want to earn it the hard way. 
The Experts at VegasTopDogs think the Nets are better now without Kyrie on the team.

Let’s say that a player goes to a team that isn’t top notch and his talent and leadership leads that team to a championship. Now let’s say, that same player instead, is unhappy with the mediocre team and demands to be traded to a team that already has 2-3 really good players, goes there and wins 3 championships, the respect level for winning the one championship is far higher. 

Kevin Durant just isn’t the guy to lead a team anywhere, after 14 seasons it’s been proven time and time again. Everybody isn’t built to be a leader, and that’s okay. But what isn’t okay, is when that same player is demanding respect like they are a leader. I think playerwise, Durant is a better player than Dwyane Wade was, but Dwyane Wade was a far better leader than Kevin Durant. Some guys have that leadership gene, and some just don’t.  

Brooklyn has had a ton of talent on that team for a few years – I’m not sure just what else he wants to have around him, to get the rings that he obviously is pining for. It’s becoming apparent that he isn’t built mentally like ball players were in the past. He doesn’t have the push to make others better, he wants to simply take his basketball skills and just add them to the team that’s already on the court. 

Durant really seems to be kicking his fan base, when he was with Oklahoma City he was really a lot of fun to watch, but now it seems that you’re just watching a guy who just goes through the motions looking for coattails to grab onto, looking to piggyback to an already established foundation to try and get a ring to add to his “legacy.” I actually feel that there are many fans who actually want to see him fail because of his lack of loyalty.  
He has no “legacy” who is his legacy with?

The new NBA slogan should be “when things get tough just quit!” Because that’s the way these players behave these days, without any loyalty to the city or the fans where they were hired, to come join and try and bring that city a championship. The discontentment in the NBA is mind boggling, these guys are never happy. Because they’re always comparing themselves to the next guy, instead of being satisfied with what they have. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a 1000 times, the players today are just made differently and not necessarily in all good ways. They dictate what team they will play for and if that doesn’t work, they pout and stomp, and go somewhere else to play. 

So far this season Durant has been off to the races, netting 32ppg but the “new look” Nets are sitting at 1-5. If they don’t turn it around, how long into the season is it going to be before the 7-0 PF starts shouting to be traded.

Again.
Well we all know what they always say right? 
If you can’t beat them, join them!

Ranking 2nd year NFL QB’s

As usual, there are some good QBs that got some playing time that surprised a lot of players and surprised a lot of fans. Along with some QBs that didn’t play as good as some teams and some fans had hoped. We’re going to look at the top 5 quarterbacks coming into the 2022 season in their 2nd year.  Who comes in in the best position and who comes in with the lowest potential. 

Let’s take a look at which quarterbacks have the best odds to succeed. 

Mac Jones, New England Patriots. 
22 TDs, 13 ints, 3801 YDs, 50.9 QBR
Mac Jones walked into a great situation. Rolling onto a team with great coaching and seemingly a great fit for his skill set. Coming out of Alabama, I felt then got a lot of good things to offer his team including high completion pct with a good ability to work the short field. Based on the team’s defense, the team’s coaching and their playing style Jones has a real good chance to have a nice improvement in his 2nd season. He’s not a huge risk taker, and that always seems to be a great thing, especially for a Belichick QB. The team’s defense was a large part and his ability to continue on the uphill climb.

Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars. 
12 TDs, 17 ints, 3641 YDs, 33.5 QBR
Lawrence had a horrible team around him including lack of offensive weapons and terrible overall team on the field. There was nothing on the team that frightened any defense in the NFL.  Now with Christian Kirk, added to veteran Marvin Jones at WR on the team this year – he looks like he has some talent around him. Yet he was still able to throw for 3641 passing yards as a rookie QB, putting him 2nd in that category for rookies. With great size and then ability to move around fluently, added that along with the off-season moves that Jacksonville has made, Lawrence is poised for a much better season than his rookie year. 

Justin Fields, Chicago Bears
7 TDs, 10 ints, 1870 YDs, 26.4 QBR
Justin lacked field vision and the ability to read a defense, which in turn, was a huge culprit for his 58% passing percentage. He did not show the ability to find his guys even through base coverages – a problem that haunted him since his playing days at Ohio State.  The team itself also lacks additional support and a lot of skill from their WRs. There is an awful lot that he needs to work on to become better. Although Fields does have some potential – if he can get his accuracy under control, it’s going to be interesting to see how he can possibly bounce back in his sophomore year. 

Davis Mills, Houston Texans
16 TDs, 10 ints, 2664 YDs, 35.5 QBR
The 24 year old QB seemed to come out of nowhere to end up with a pretty decent season. I don’t think anyone saw him having the season that he had in 2021. You’d be hard-pressed to find a football fan who’s thought that Mills would even be playing, let alone having a pretty decent rookie year. Especially that he did it with a lack of faith and weapons to throw the ball to. With what he put together in the 2021 season it’s hard to say that he shouldn’t be at least equivalent to what he did in 2022. 

Zach Wilson, New York Jets
9 TDs, 11 ints, 2334 YDs, 28.2 QBR
No secret about it, Wilson struggled terribly, his decision making was awful, but he is still intriguing with the fact that he did have 4 games with 225+ passing yards also shows promise. It’s hard to say that the Jets made any significant plays to help the young QB for this year, and his knee injury has started off 2022 behind the 8 ball already. As a rookie QB, they often lack the aggressiveness, and Zach certainly fell into that as well. He seemed to prefer to throw a 3rd down hitch, than to move it downfield, which to me shows a lack of confidence. The Jets really have not had a lot of luck with QBs. 

Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
5 TDs, 2 ints, 603 YDs, 33.4 QBR
This one is probably the toughest one to potentially rank, it’s really based on the fact but he really didn’t get a lot of time on the field. With the ongoing very strange, and very weird situation with QB on the Niners – makes this even that more complicated. But the biggest thing that is most concerning if you’re a Niners fan, is that the team obviously wasn’t sold enough on him to hand this position to him on a platter, they resigned Jimmy G, as insurance – nobody will tell me different. I’m starting to think that it’s possible that his 17 games that he played in college didn’t prepare him enough for the speed of the NFL. As the 3rd overall pick in the draft you would think that he would be ready to go, we shall see. 

Best pitcher in MLB history

One can make an argument over who the best pitcher of all time was Nolan Ryan and his 5,714 Ks – how about Cy Young, I mean the award for being the best pitcher is named after him, after all.  And then we have pitchers like Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens who were both phenomenal. Come on, we’re looking at 9,547 strikeouts between the 2 of them.

But let’s look at some other numbers, let’s look at other attributes. Firstly, I feel that choosing the best pitcher is definitely going to be relative to their era. Sports have evolved, and changed over the years, pitchers used to pitch 150 times in a game, in this day and age they’re getting pulled after 80. The longer a pitcher stays in the game, the more chances and more opportunities he would have of throwing more balls and walking more players. It’s tough to compare Clayton Kershaw versus Steve Carlton when they played in very different eras of baseball.

I definitely feel that for a pitcher to be considered as the greatest of all time, they have to have received the Cy Young Award. I mean, it is the pinnacle of individual awards for a MLB pitcher. I also think that the record has to stand for something. Did they win games, did they bring victories? And of course, how many strikeouts did they have, did they sit batters? And honestly could a team count on them, if they needed them to shut down a team, in the most crucial times of a game?

I know that Nolan Ryan had 324 W’s along with 5,714 strikeouts, but the fact is he lost a lot of games and he also never won the Cy Young Award. So during 27 seasons, he was never considered the best in the majors, for any  season. It makes you think that maybe, longevity was his greatest attribute.

As we are talking about pitching, I only think there’s one correct answer, and that’s Greg Maddux.  When it came to ERA, throwing inning after inning, and winning when needed, he was money.  The Bulldog was sheer terror over 23 seasons, as he racked up All Stars, Cy Youngs, including 355 wins and 3300+ Ks.  He also played in an era when people were hitting home runs like Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds.

The records that Nolan Ryan put up are likely never going to be touched. His records will never be broken, amassing 5,714 Ks and 7 no hitters. Especially in an era today when pitchers are pulled after 6 innings of perfect baseball. And having records that will never be broken, certainly stands for something. Ryan was the best at overpowering hitters. But when it comes to just outstanding mound work, Greg Maddux is the GOAT with his finesse.

There’s obviously many to choose from for this conversation but Maddux cannot be forgotten, he truly was the best of the best with a complete game.  It wasn’t just about striking out players, it was about winning the big games shutting bats down. What’s even more amazing, let’s take a look and see what we think over the next 20 years. Ohtani very well could be one of the best we’ve ever seen, for many other reasons, but that’s a whole other conversation.

3 reasons why the SD Padres are good

In 2021 the Padres bumbled along  with a 79 – 83 record, finishing third in the National League West.
A whopping 28 games behind 1st place, the most games out for a 3rd place team in the majors.

But so far in 2022 they’re sitting on top in the National League West. What are the biggest reasons why they went from a team that you probably marked as a win against, when you saw them on the calendar, to a top quality baseball team.

3. We cannot look at the turnaround this year and not start off with improvements when playing on the road. In 2021 the Padres were just 34-47 when playing away from their home field, Petco Park. Now granted, home field advantage might not always be the biggest advantage in baseball, based on the crowd, but the ability to take your team elsewhere and still win… is. Last year, the Padres lost 13 games by 5 or more runs on the road. Which means they were vastly in games that weren’t even close. This year, they have already won 7 games by 5 or more runs when playing on the road, that’s a huge number.

2. For being completely honest 2021 Manny Machado had numerous inconsistencies.  This year, Machado has brought his game back. The 29 year old 3rd baseman has always shown great vision and power over 10 seasons. Last year and knocked out 28 home runs, this year he’s on pace for around 30, again. He also batted .278 in 2021 – so far this year sitting at .327, which if he ends the season the way he’s been so far, will be a career-high.
That’s a big difference.

1. The biggest and best reason for their improvement this year is their pitching. In 2021 they had a team ERA of 4.10 which sat at 14th – and in 2022 they improved to 5th in the majors with a team 3.43 ERA. Joe Musgrove has been absolutely spectacular in 2022 with a minuscule 1.59 ERA and an 8-0 record as of this article, he has absolutely been a huge reason for this turnaround. Last year he was still their best pitcher with consistent starts, with a 3.18 ERA with a 11-9 record in the win-loss column – but he has been so much better this year.  Yu Darvish is also seeming to be getting himself back on track after an 8-11 season in 2021. His ERA has improved and so has his ability to not get rocked at the plate. Last year he had a tendency of giving up home runs, where he gave up 28 in the season.  This year he has greatly diminished that.

The Padres have shown a lot of improvements this year between the team’s ability to travel & their pitching in particular. For San Diego fans they can enjoy it, because you deserve it.  After a miserable year last year and having them fight and be tops in their division now is certainly a huge welcome. Playing in the National League with other teams like the Mets and the Dodgers, it’s going to be tough to see who comes out.  And the fact that they have been doing so well without their Superstar Fernando Tatis is even more exceptional, how much better can this team get? At this point, they have to feel just as good about their chances as anyone. 

Has the NBA changed too much?

Games change over the years all the time, regardless of the sport, there are often subtle changes that occur.
Most of the time, I would think, even for traditionalists of a specific sport that is going through a change, there are some changes that are often accepted. But then there are other things about a game that change over time, that definitely just don’t sit right. Sometimes there are changes that just start to make the sport very different. To the point that a sport actually has effectively changed.

We know in the NFL, physicality has been greatly adjusted. We know, quarterbacks barely need to be touched at times for a flag to be thrown, and CBs are at a great disadvantage on defense now. Although we understand the reasoning behind some of the changes. I think there needs to be a happy medium because it’s gotten a bit overboard.
Those were changes that were specifically made by the league.
We are going to discuss changes that have just “evolved” in the NBA game.

One of the biggest changes that has occurred in today’s NBA is bigs playing in the post. It’s very rare to see a big fella with his back to the basket and his hand up jockeying for position in the box. Players had a position over history, and they all had a duty that was assigned to that position that they played. The PG handled the ball, they were usually the best ball-handlers and kept the team’s flow and rhythm. Your SG’s were scorers. The frontcourt hit the glass and your bigs played inside out. Today’s game, not so much. There are pros and cons to that – it shows the great ability and skills this generation of talent has – but it has also lowered the position value. Where would Shaq play today? Would he still get the ball in the post with all of the 3-pt shooting today?

Hand-checking was great.  It brought some physicality and the ability to feel out your defender.  And it gave the defender a feel and  flow playing defense, it made scorers have to play a little harder on offense.  Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want the defense just throwing elbows and jacking people, but physical play was always part of basketball.  Basketball is a physical sport. When you box out, you throw your rear end into the guy, you bodied guys up. Boxing out itself was a very physical part of the game, and there’s not nearly as much of that in today’s game.

There was a lot more pure competitiveness back in the day. The top teams battled, and it was warfare. It wasn’t all hugs and kisses with everybody friending each other on social media. They seemed to play with much more pride and loyalty to the team they played for. Teams really wanted to beat each other. When the Lakers and the Celtics played, they had respect for each other, when the Pistons and the Bulls played, they had respect for each other, but make no mistake about it, those organizations weren’t buddies. They weren’t pals, they wanted to destroy each other. The teams usually didn’t even like each other.

The best players truly wanted to compete against each other, they wanted to beat the other best players.  Not join up with them to make a championship caliber team instantly. Players today, as we all know, now seem to be much more interested in the path of least resistance. It’s not necessarily about being the man to lead your team, it’s about who you can get together to win. I think for most people that’s the biggest and most disappointing change that we’ve seen in the NBA these last several years. The lack of leadership and heart that these players seem to have.

When a player was drafted by a team, his job was to make the team better, that player took it as a compliment that he was chosen to make the team better, and yes, that includes going to a crummy team without a lot of good players.
They drafted him to help them, not stick around for 3 years, complain about the team, and then fight to go somewhere else with other stars. They drafted you to help get the team championships. It was much more about the team, not as much about the individual player.

And of course, the flopping. I’m not quite sure when it became okay for players to give up and fold like a lawn chair anytime they get bumped, instead of wanting to stand their ground, and be a man. I get it, players have always exaggerated fouls a little bit to get to the line. But let’s be honest, again, these guys are not just exaggerating, they’re putting in work for an Academy Award.

Change is okay in increments. But when it starts to completely upend and change the way the game is even played it can be a little disconcerting. Realistically, for those who enjoy the game, we’re going to still watch it. We might complain a little bit more and we might want to see a different style of play a little more often.  But, we’re still going to watch it, because it’s still a sport we enjoy and it’s still entertaining just the same.  I’m just really hoping that someday we get a good throwback player who plays the game a little “differently” again.

TOP 5 LEFT-HANDED STARTERS AGE 27 OR YOUNGER IN 2022

The elite left-handed starters have a big advantage just for the simple fact that most players see a lot more right-handed pitching. Look for teams that have not faced a Quality Left-handed starter for some time (five games or more) and you will have a nice winning investment. Here are my Top 5 Left-handed starting pitchers age 27 or younger for the 2022 season. Baseball is back baby!

No. 1 Julio Urias (LA Dodgers) AGE: 25 (2021: 20-3, 2.96 ERA, 1.01 WHIP)

Was No. 3 on this list in 2020-21 and will occupy the top spot until he’s no longer eligible. Julio had a breakout year for the Blue Crew last season. For his career, Urias has 427 strikeouts in 424.2 innings with a 32-10 record and 3.09 ERA. The Dodgers have refused every trade when teams asked for Julio ever since his rookie year back in 2016. At age 25, he is no longer on a restricted pitch count, although the Dodgers are extremely analytical in their decision making. His “stuff” is dynamic featuring a mid to upper 90s fastball, cutter, slider, curve-ball and devastating change-up. I would expect another tremendous season. The Dodgers’ offense looks unstoppable (especially with DH), so reaching 20 wins seems obtainable. Dodger Stadium ranked the 12th toughest in runs scored last year according to ESPN Park Factors. Grab him as an Ace in the 2nd round. Love him!

No. 2 Trevor Rogers (Miami Marlins) AGE: 24 (2021: 7-8, 2.71 ERA, 1.16 WHIP)

Trevor is about to have his best season of his career. Thanks, Captain Obvious! Last season, Rogers recorded 157 strikeouts in just 133 IP. If he gets more run support this year, you’re looking at 15-20 wins. I would expect a slight regression in ERA and WHIP on the road. At home, Marlins Park ranked the toughest stadium in runs scored by ESPN Park Factors. The strikeouts will always be there with a sterling 28.8% K-rate. Huge in fantasy. Good for straight wagers too especially as underdogs. You can draft him in the 2nd to sixth round depending on your needs. Don’t miss out. These young stud lefties are hard to find. Should be an All-Star in 2022!

No. 3 Aaron Ashby (Milwaukee Brewers) AGE: 23 (2021: 3-2, 4.55 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)

Appeared in 13 games (4 starts) last season and recorded 39 strikeouts in 31.2 innings. Ashby averaged 96.5 MPH on his sinking fastball last season, while routinely touching 97-99. His slider is devastating (82-85 MPH), with sharp break leading to a 42% strikeout rate. His third best pitch is an above average upper 80s diving change-up that produces a lot of strikeouts. Ashby also has an upper 70s looping curve-ball which is just for show. The Brewers want less walks from Ashby which should come with more experience. The Brewers are high on him and you should be too. Ashby will be battling for the 5th spot this spring. He’s too talented not to crack the rotation at some point. Keep an eye on him. Don’t forget, at least 50% of all starters will land on the IL at some point. He’s unlikely to win 15-20 games, but 8-10 wins with 175 K’s in 150 IP will help your team. Mid to Late round steal!

No. 4 Tarik Skubal (Detroit Tigers) AGE: 25 (2021: 8-12, 4.34 ERA, 1.26 WHIP)

Tarik Skubal will be the fourth starter to begin the season. His numbers have improved in each of his first two big-league seasons. Last year, Skubal continued his upward trend with 164 strikeouts in 149.1 IP. His 26.1% career K-rate is very impressive. Skubal allowed 35 Home Runs last season, but don’t let that scare you from backing or drafting him. Young pitchers only get better with more innings, and Detroit’s home stadium ranked as the 6th-toughest in runs scored last year. A lot of that had to with the Tigers’ offense. I get that. Detroit’s offense should be better with the addition Baez and Schoop. Look for a “breakout” season in terms of Innings, strikeouts, and hopefully 10+ wins. Another mid to late round steal!

No. 5 Jesus Luzardo (Miami Marlins) AGE: 24 (2021: 6-9, 6.61 ERA, 1.61 WHIP)

Another Marlin! The numbers don’t jump off the page, but even the best pitchers can struggle early in careers. The Marlins are very exited of what they will see from this highly touted prospect. Jesus throws in the upper 90s, with a tremendous slider, curve-ball, and change-up. Last year, he recorded 98 strikeouts in 95.1 innings shuffling between the bullpen and starter. The Marlins have Luzardo listed as their fifth starter, which should help his mental game. Marlins Park surrendered the fewest runs in all of baseball last season according to ESPN Park Factors. Look for 10-15 wins with more strikeouts than innings pitched in 2022. The Marlins should also be better on offense. PECOTA projects 707 runs scored, which is more than they scored last season (623). Late round sleeper with ginormous upside!

Jeff’s success in MLB is well-documented since 1998. Jeff was ranked No. 1 in MLB last season at The Sports Monitor of OK. Not a one time thing. Jeff was ranked No. 5 two seasons ago, and No. 3 three years ago. Numerous Top 10 rankings as well. Jeff’s Early Bird MLB package now available! It’s the biggest no-brainer in the history of mankind. Just $499 for the entire season thru World Series. Save $200!

Expectations are high this year for the Yankees 

It’s easy to forget that just a short while ago, the New York Yankees were tabbed by many to be possible favorites in this division. After winning 92 games last year, this year I think that a +8-10 game change is very likely.

Their pitching should be good again. Gerrit Cole got off to a very good start and was the cog for the New York Yankees pitching staff overall. He posted a 3.23 ERA along with 243 Ks and he amazingly won games even when the offense scored 3 or less runs. His return brings them steadiness on the bump. Then there is the quintessential X-Factor. Which is Jordan Montgomery. He immediately springs to mind with his sinker that abuses the plate, and his wicked changeup that dances over the plate when it cruises over it. As long as he can continue what he is good at, and get some decent offensive help, he can be a huge key to this team’s season. While it’s far too early to say what kind of run the 30 year old pitcher is going to have, but after what we saw last year with his 162 Ks, his ERA, and innings pitched – all which were top 3 on the team, it’s easy to say why just a couple of tweaks here and there, could make him a real surprise stud.

The team also has to feel good about what they saw from Gleyber Torres during the 2021 campaign, in the time he got, he racked up a .259 avg and a solid .697 OPS. Although with a little more work he could be really productive for this team, as long as he keeps confidence at the plate, with his smooth swing and excellent hand-eye coordination, it wouldn’t surprise me for him to knock out 25+ HRs and rack up another 85 RBI again. Torres is on his way to becoming a great player – and him possibly moving to 2B could be a key – with good discipline along with more than just adequate plate coverage.  

Aaron Judge showed awesome power, yet again, and excellent hitting with 39 slammers and 98 RBI. The 6-7 powerhouse struggled early in the season, hitting just .246 in the first 30 games, then went off during the rest of the season, hitting .298 adding 80 RBI. The key for him will be trying to start off ready to go, and riding it for the year. If he can get off early, it would be a great help.

The Yankees are going to be betting on Judge and Torres coming through for them this year and I fully expect them to do as such. If they do as expected, they will be looking at a postseason berth. I wouldn’t be surprised if Judge gets at least 40 HRs if he gets the chance to open it up, and if Torres can stay confident it is going to be tough to handle this squad.

The Yankees turned it around later in the year, they played better baseball over the middle of the summer, getting red hot in July and August, plowing along at a 35-17 record. Helping them to finish 3rd in the AL East. They had a slow start going just 41-39 through June 2021, and that start definitely put them behind in the race. If they managed to play as well as they played for the middle of the season, during the first part of the year, they probably would have finished with around 100-105 wins. Expectations for New York this season should be a lot higher than they were in 2021 – now that they have shown what they can do. The Rays better be careful, because this team has a very high chance of causing some chaos in the division and getting to be the Top Dog in MLB.

Tips for Mastering your Bracket

This is the most exciting time of the college basketball season and the most anticipated and watched event in sports next to the Super Bowl.

I have correctly pegged 2 of the 4 teams who made it to the FINAL FOUR in 12 out of 14 years.

This year I am giving you some of my top advice on what it takes to be a Champion.

Of course, you can never foresee injuries, suspensions, foul trouble, poor officiating, etc. throughout the big dance. Everyone likes underdogs and Cinderella teams but you have to look at the team records, their strengths and the conferences that they play in. There is usually one team that surprises everyone but fails to win it in the end, such as Utah in 1998 vs. Kentucky and Butler coming up short in 2010 and 2011.

Since 1998, the Championship team has not been seeded lower than a #4 and in 1997 Arizona was a #4 seed and won it all.

As you can see in the past 22 tournaments, the top teams usually go all the way. Digging even deeper you have to go back to 1988 when a #6 seed Kansas team coached by Larry Brown won it all, but things were different back then as players didn’t bolt to the NBA after one season in college. As much as I like to select a solid #4 or #5 to go all the way, it’s not a smart idea. 21 of the last 24 National Champs have been a #1 or #2 seed.  Villanova won it as a #1 seed.

 Before I start to bore you with all of my numbers and trends, let me share some of my top tips for picking your brackets.

Great teams do not lose more than 7 games in a season, so if a team has 8 or more losses, stay away from them.

Also, each of the past 25 champs were from one of the major 6 conferences. 

The teams in these conferences play the toughest games night in and night out on a regular basis and have been more battle tested. Mid majors/small schools tend to make it to the Sweet 16 or Elite 8, but not to the FINAL FOUR.  Illinois-Chicago was a #11 a few years ago and did make it to the FINAL FOUR but lost to Michigan.  

So, look at the teams who lost 7 or fewer games this season, play in a major conference, and are seeded #3 or better this year, you can narrow down your Final Four selections from this list of 11 teams.  Highlighted are the 4 teams I like to make it to the FINAL FOUR.

GONZAGA 

Duke

KENTUCKY

ARIZONA

Purdue

Kansas

AUBURN

Wisconsin

Villanova

Tennessee

Baylor

From here, I would look at how these teams faired on neutral courts and on the road during their season. It is also important to consider each team’s starting guards, their defensive strength, team rebounding, experience, coaching, and if they can make their foul shots. Teams who take over 35% of their shots from 3-pt land also do not fair well.

From my 24 years of experience, I offer you my professional advice and helpful tips. My hope is that this article has fed your excitement for the tournament while giving you a competitive edge to turn some heads in your company or online pools!  Enjoy the tournament and remember, pick with your head, not with your heart!

My Sleeper picks to turn a few heads and win a few games and maybe get to the SWEET 16 or ELITE 8 are: ST MARYS and UCONN and you can get some good Vegas Odds on those.