he True Fans Bleed Blue and Orangeh

Monday, March 15, 2010

Knicks' Youth Need to Prove that Season Wasn't Worthless

Saturday night the New York Knicks shocked their entire fanbase. Not only did they win a game, but they dominated an entire game, and it was against one of the best teams in the NBA. I can not remember a more convincing win by the Knicks against such a strong team in years. Led by Toney Douglas and Bill Walker the Knicks beat the Dallas Mavericks, in Dallas, 128-94; completing the team's first road victory since February 26th against the Wizards.

Toney Douglas, in his third start of the season and fist since November, had his third 20 point performance of the season, scoring 21 points while shooting a very impressive 8-10 from the field and 4-4 from the 3PT line. Bill Walker came off the bench to score another career high of 23 points on 9-12 shooting, and 5-8 from the 3PT line. Harrington and Chandler also added 20 point performances to contribute to the win.

However, the victory and the seemingly random team effort was not what to take away from the game. Toney Douglas and Bill Walker are playing their way to significant roles onto this team next year. Douglas has become a hustle first point guard who is willing to make the right pass, as well as take the big shot. Douglas did also have 8 assists in the game with no turnovers. On the other hand, Bill Walker has become a sparkplug for the team. The 6'6 forward has shown incredible athleticism with dunk after dunk and has proven he can hold his own from three.

So now the question comes how good can these guys actually become? I feel that neither player will ever be a great starter on a winning team, however, that is not to say that they won't both have significant off the bench roles in their future. Douglas's numbers are very impressive this year, especially considering he has played very sporadic minutes. He is shooting 48.3% from the field, 39.3% from three, and 85.7% from the free throw line. He has made a handful of big plays this season, as well as a few rookie mistakes (most recently his turnover at the end of the Atlanta game that almost cost the Knicks a win).

I feel that Douglas has a higher ceiling than Walker does, however I think that Douglas tops out as someone like a Raymond Felton. Meaning, on a given night he can be great and take over a game, but he lacks the consistent jump shot and quickness to be successful every night. However, Douglas could easily prove me wrong, considering he has shot well all season, and it seems as if his work ethic is a forced to be reckoned with.

Bill Walker is an interesting case. he has had multiple eruptions since he began with the Knicks, but I haven't really seen a real reason why or how he is scoring. He is more of a slasher who scores off of good passes and alley-oops from his teammates. He gets a few dunks per game, and occasionally has a mismatch in the paint where Walker can make a post move and score. "Sky Walker," as Clyde Frazier calls him, has also shown he can shoot the ball, something he claims he has always been capable of doing, but was just never given a chance to.

Personally, it feels like Walker's success is a bit of an aberration and I am not fully sold on him yet. It seems to me like he is becoming a glorified Shannon Brown. In other words, he is a good athlete with an average to decent jump shot, who will occasionally score 20 points off the bench, but will always provide great athleticism and energy. Lets compare Brown's numbers this season with Bill Walker's Knicks numbers:

Shannon Brown in 20 Minutes: 7.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 44.3%, 32.4 3PT%, .8 SPG
Bill Walker in 25 Minutes: 11.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.2 APG, 62.2%, 44.8 3PT%, .8 SPG

In about 5 more minutes per game a lot of Walker and Brown's numbers are similar. Walker's field goal percentage, for his entire career, has been ridiculously high, but that is more a product of small sample size than of Walker being the best shooter of all time. Outside of his shooting, their PPG are similar, while rebounds, assists, and steals are all virtually the same. Shannon Brown is also well known for his incredible dunks. This is not to downplay Brown's significance, he stepped in and played a huge role for the Lakers when Kobe went down and his been great off of the bench for them this year, but he is no star. Only time will tell if Walker is truly a future NBA starter or if he is another good NBA athlete.

True Fans Bleed Blue and Orange is back!

Hello to all of our fans who don't exist anymore! We are back and hopefully better than ever! A quick update on my life for everyone. I am now attending Quinnipiac University as a sophomore, and majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in Sports Studies. I am ready to be dedicated to this site one more time, discussing the latest Mets and Knicks news! Tell a friend to tell a friend!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Nichols and Jordan Cut By Isiah

When Isiah Thomas traded for Demetris Nichols on draft night I became excited. As a Syracuse fan I was able to see Nichols' shooting a couple of nights a week, and I knew right away that trading a second rounder for him was an instant steal. Next I watched the 6-8 small forward score 15. 6 points a game in the summer league, while shooting at a 53% clip. There isn't much else for Nichols to do. He played solid defense, scored, and scored at an efficient pace to boot. Then the Knicks signed Allan Houston as a pre-season invitee, and I did not feel confident in Nichol's chances of making the team.

Then, Houston requests to be cut from the Knicks, and suddenly my hopes of Nichols making the team might come true. Rumors came out that Nichols requested to be cut by the Knicks if he wasn't going to be given a fair chance to make the roster. However, those rumors were shot down by the team. Nichols was right to be skeptical of his chances of making the team, as Isiah rarely, if ever, played Nichols. Although, in last night's win against the Sixers Nichols played 9 minutes (a couple of minutes over his average minutes). Nichols scored 10 points in those 9 minutes, including shooting 2-2 behind the arc. After the game I thought maybe Isiah will start playing him more, especially considering how effective he was in only 10 minutes. Then this afternoon the Knicks announced that Nichols, Jared Jordan, and Walker Russel have all been cut from the pre-season roster. The roster is now finalized at 15.
"Jerome James remains," I kept repeating those words to myself when I heard the news. The same Jerome James who has yet to play this pre-season. James is so bad, Isiah can't even bench him, James has benched himself. The 7-1 behemoth has knee tendinitis and he may need surgery that would end his season, although James said he wants to fight through the pain. If not playing is fighting through the pain I don't want to see what the alternative option was. On top of James not playing, when he does play he is very ineffective. James makes 6 million dollars a year, and last season he averaged a stunningly bad 1.9 ppg and 1.6 rpg. James was, in my opinion, the biggest obstacle for Nichols to overcome to make the Knicks, and I didn't feel that it was that large of an obstacle. Obviously, Isiah Thomas chose money over youth, and talent.

James is under contract for three more years (including this year), and if he has yet another lackluster season I pray that Isiah finally comes to his senses and buys James out. I have long been an Isiah supporter. As a coach, and at times as a GM, he shows a lot of potential. The decision to cut Nichols, while keeping Jerome "Big Snacks" James was not one of his brighter decisions.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Mets Offseason: Full Of Moves? Part 3

Yesterday I discussed what I felt Minaya should do with the Mets starting rotation this off-season. Amongst my suggestions was to offer ex-Cy Young winner, Bartolo Colon, an incentive laden deal, in addition to adding Mike Pelfrey to the rotation. On Wednesday I discussed the bullpen, in which I suggested moving Orlando Hernandez to a set-up role. Today it's the lineups turn to be dissected.
The Mets have numerous potential free agents from their 2007 lineup. Paul LoDuca, Moises Alou, Shawn Green, and Luis Castillo all may be playing on different teams next year. First things first, re-sign Moises Alou and Luis Castillo. Although, do not sign them with the intentions of them playing 140 games next year. Alou is incredibly injury prone, and Castillo has poor knees. Tell Ruben Gotay to play winter ball, and focus on his fielding. Gotay is more than capable of playing 40-50 games at second base next year, while doubling as a utility man whenever David Wright or Jose Reyes need a game off.

After I explain to Gotay that if he improves his defense he will have an important role on the team next year, I focus on the outfield. With Shawn Green gone the Mets will need a right-fielder. I am very comfortable with giving Lastings Milledge the starting nod in right field, but I am not comfortable enough with him that I don't look for security. The security for Milledge could also double as Moises Alou's replacement whenever he needs off/gets hurt. I think that Endy Chavez's success the past two years has been a bit overrated (although he has been great, he hasn't been as great as he has been made out to be), so I think his best role is as a backup outfielder, not as a security blanket. Kenny Lofton is a free agent, although with his success in the postseason thus far I can't see him leaving Cleveland again. Assuming Lofton doesn't hit the market, the perfect fit for the Mets is Jacque Jones. According to reports the Cubs do not want to trade Jones this off-season, but if they become involved with one of the big center-field free agents (Torri Hunter/Andruw Jones) things can change.

Jones is a left-handed power bat (Alou and Milledge are both righty). In 455 at bats this year he hit .283 with 33 doubles and 66 rbi. Jones would be the perfect bat for the Mets bench, being the sole left-handed power bat. If Minaya does fail in acquiring Jones or Lofton this off-season, it would not be the worst thing in the world if the fourth outfielder is Endy Chavez (albeit against my wishes).
With the outfield and second base set I look towards catcher. It appears the Mets may re-sign Paul LoDuca, with Pudge Rodriguez staying with the Tigers. However, I urge the Mets to go younger. Ronny Paulino, from the Pittsburgh Pirates, is a terrific young backstop. The 27 year old had better numbers than LoDuca this year, and has hit over .300 in the past. On top of that he is a terrific defender, being rated by "Baseball America" as the Pirates best defensive catcher in the organization in 2005 and 2006. Paulino is a very similar hitter to LoDuca: a contact hitter who works the count. It is also imperative that the Mets re-sign one of the best back-up catchers in baseball, Ramon Castro. Castro should also be insured that if Paulino (or whomever is catching) struggles that he has the potential to earn more playing time.

Should Minaya follow my blueprint next year's lineup should look like this:

1) Jose Reyes SS
2) Luis Castillo 2B/Ruben Gotay
3) David Wright 3B
4) Carlos Beltran CF
5) Moises Alou LF/Jacque Jones
6) Carlos Delgado 1B
7) Lastings Milledge RF/Jacque Jones
8) Ronny Paulino C

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mets Offseason: Full Of Moves? Part 2

Yesterday I discussed what I felt that Omar Minaya should do with the Mets bullpen this off-season. Today it's the starting rotation's turn to be dissected.
In my analysis of the bullpen yesterday I suggested moving Orlando Hernandez to the bullpen in a set-up role, permanently. Making such a move would open a hole in the rotation. Assuming Tom Glavine is going to the Braves this off-season (I always felt Glavine was under-valued by Mets fans) the Mets will have three spots filled in the rotation next year: Pedro Martinez, Oliver Perez, and John Maine. That is three quality starters in the rotation, with two holes to fill. Minaya could choose to go two directions with the rotation. Begin a youth movement and keep the young prospects in the minors to fully develop, or to acquire more experienced veteran pitchers.
If Omar decides to go with a youth movement (less likely, considering Mets fans may crucify him before the season) then Mike Pelfrey will definitely be added to the rotation. Then if Minaya didn't have the utilities to acquire a starter he could choose from Phil Humber, Jason Vargas, and Kevin Mulvey for the fifth starter spot.

Likely Minaya will go with a mixture of a youth movement, as well as look to improve the team through outside sources. Big names such as Dontrelle Willis and even Johan Santana have been linked to the Mets, although my gut tells me a blockbuster involving one of those two starters won't happen this off-season with the Mets. Seeing Willis pitch against the Mets the last day of the season showed me that Willis is a completely different pitcher than he was in 2005, when he won 22 games. His mechanics were out of whack, and his control was all over the place. Keep him away from the Mets. As for Santana. He would cost Jose Reyes and then some. Right now is definitely not the time to deal Reyes, especially considering the Mets may sign Johan Santana next off-season and still have Reyes.

So who is out there? Bartolo Colon is a big name that is likely to hit free agency this off-season. Colon has battled injuries and in-effective pitching the last two seasons, but he has been an elite pitcher in the past. In his last full season (2005) he won the Cy Young, with 21 victories. Colon only pitched half a season in the NL, with Minaya's Expos. He went 10-4 with a 3.31 era in his 17 games started in 2002. Other starting pitchers available include David Wells, Jason Jennings, Livan Hernandez, and Freddy Garcia.

If I was Minaya I would Mike Pelfrey in the fifth slot of the rotation. Pelfrey pitched much better the last month of the season. Save his last start (5.2 ip 7 runs 6 er) he had a 3.67 era in his last 4 starts. Pelfrey could break out next season. As for the other slot in the rotation I would pursue Colon hard with an incentive laden deal. I also think Jason Jennings could have a solid bounce back year next year, despite an injury riddled season this year. One thing is certain. Minaya should focus on creating a rotation that has a lot of depth. With Pedro Martinez's health over a full season being a concern one other freak injury could cripple the rotation. As a result, Minaya should focus heavily on not only acquiring major league starting pitching, he should also look to acquire starters for the AAA team in case of an emergency.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mets Offseason: Full Of Moves? Part 1

When the Mets were officially eliminated from playoff contention on September 30th it forced all Mets fans to come to the inevitable realization that our team might not be as good as originally expected. Holes in the bullpen and in the rotation caused this team's ultimate demise, as well as a lack of leadership in the lineup. Therefore, the new york media, as well as a majority of the Mets fans, have been calling for a major shakeup of the entire Mets team. While I think that a major shakeup is a bit of an exaggeration I do feel that Omar Minaya should re-shape the team somewhat.
First, and perhaps most important, is the Mets bullpen. Personally, I feel the Mets bullpen is a bit underrated, but nowhere near as good as it was two years ago. I still trust Billy Wagner as the closer, despite a lackluster second half, Wagner showed enough in the first half that he is still a dominant closer. In fact, if you take out Wagner's August in which he had a 6.23 era in 13 games then Wagner had a 1.80 era the rest of the season, which would have been second amongst NL closers. I also think Aaron Heilman is a terrific set-up man, but not in the eighth inning. Heilman in the seventh inning would be an ideal situation for him and the Mets. I also love Pedro Feliciano in the exact role he is in right now, although he was a bit overused this year. Jorge Sosa was decent in relief this year, although I am not ready to give him a set-up role, although I think Sosa could become a valuable middle-inning reliever. Joe Smith will likely be back with the ML team next year, and if he can re-gain his stuff from the first half of the year he could be another huge boost for the bullpen. However, even with an effective Joe Smith the Mets bullpen still needs some work.

Scott Schoeneweis needs to go. He had an era under 4 for a month only twice this year, which means a third of the time the 34 year old is a well below average reliever. I don't care if his contract is large and the Mets would have to eat it, he hurts the Mets more than he helps them. Guillermo Mota also needs to go. Although Mota still throws hard the quality of his stuff fell faster than the great stock market crash in 1929. Mota never had an era under 4 for a month all season. Aaron Sele, although he did not have a very successful season in terms of results, helped the Mets with a few innings whenever their starter did not pitch deep enough into the game. I would have no problem with Sele staying with the Mets next year, although I would not shed a tear if he was somewhere else come Spring Training next year.

Injured pitchers Juan Padilla, Ambiorix Burgos, and Duaner Sanchez should be given every opportunity to make the team next year out of Spring Training, but I would not want to entrust an important role to either pitcher without knowing how their stuff will respond to their respective injuries. So what do we do with the bullpen? Orlando Hernandez should be moved to the bullpen permanently. El Duque is too old and fragile to pitch 200 innings a year anymore, and I think that his effectiveness out of the pen could be an extremely valuable asset for the Mets next year. I would feel comfortable with El Duque in the eighth inning; I would still acquire another set-up man to assists with the eighth inning, as well as another left handed pitcher to ease the load on Pedro Feliciano. Although the names of potential suitors for the roles I detailed have not become clear yet Omar likely will have a large list of names to choose from.

Should Minaya follow my landscape the Mets bullpen could look like this next year:

Middle Relief 1: Jorge Sosa
Middle Relief 2: Mixture of Ambiorix Burgos, Joe Smith, Duaner Sanchez, and Juan Padilla
Lefty-Reliever 1: Pedro Feliciano
Lefty Reliever 2: Acquired by Minaya via FA or trade
Set-up Man 1: Orlando Hernandez
Set-up Man 2: Acquired by Minaya via FA or trade
Set-up Man 3: Aaron Heilman
Closer: Billy Wagner

That bullpen is much stronger than the Mets current bullpen, and it would only take Minaya a move or two to make the pen one of the strongest in the National League.

Tomorrow: Starting Rotation

Monday, October 08, 2007

Knicks catering to Houston?

Over the last couple of weeks the Knicks have had two headlines surrounding them. Isiah's messy trial, and a possible Allan Houston return. Houston has reportedly been offered an invite to the Knicks already packed training camp.

Last season Allan Houston (H20) proclaimed that he felt that if he were on the Knicks that they could have been helped by his veteran presence on the team, considering the Knicks only have a handful of veterans.Now that Houston is very close to returning to the Knicks it seems like New York, and their players, are trying everything they can to make Houston seem comfortable.

Last Sunday Isiah waived Dan Dickau (who has since been signed by the Clippers), lowering the Knicks roster size. Right now the roster that is invited to training camp stands at 19, not counting H20. Below is the list of training camp invitees, the Knicks will have to cut 4 of the players before the regular season starts (5 if Houston accepts the invite):
Renaldo Balkman
Wilson Chandler
Mardy Collins
Jamal Crawford
Eddy Curry
Jerome James
Jared Jeffries
Fred Jones
Jared Jordan
David Lee
Stephon Marbury
Randolph Morris
Demetris Nichols
Zach Randolph
Quentin Richardson
Nate Robinson
Malik Rose
Walker Russell
Roderick Wilmont

The Knicks clearly have an abundance of talent, and Isiah may wind up cutting someone who will come back to haunt him (a la Matt Carroll last season). Isiah likely will cut Walker Russel and Roderick Wilmont, as they are probably just there for extra bodies, and to indirectly tryout for other teams. With those two out of the picture the roster is down to 17, leaving 3 more players in the way of Houston. Next Isiah should do what Knicks fans have been asking him to do for the past two years. Buyout Jerome James. The man has absolutely no role on this team. With Zach Randolph here the Knicks have two capable centers, and a younger Randolph Morris to back them up. Now we are at 16 plus Houston.

This is where it gets tough. Isiah picked up Jared Jordan, a personal favorite of mine since his college days at Marist, but it does not appear that Jordan has a role on this team. At 6'2 185 Jordan is restricted to playing pg, and Mardy Collins is likely locked in at backup point guard (Collins is 4 inches taller than Jordan). I was incredibly impressed with Jordan's poise and leadership in college, however it doesn't look like he has a place on this team which is a shame, because I think he will be a player one day. So that eliminates Jordan.

That leaves the roster at 15, which is perfect for an Allan Houston-less team, but should H20 take the Knicks offer there is one more move that needs to be made. The three candidates that could be cut would likely be: Fred Jones, Demetris Nichols, and Jared Jeffries. Personally I would not cut any of these players, and would make a trade where I trade a handful of players for 1 to open roster space. However, it is not that easy and sometimes Isiah has to bite the bullet.

Fred Jones is well-known as a high-flying athletic NBA player. However, at 28 Jones has yet to break out, and has been no more than a role player on the teams he has played for. Although Jones prides himself on his defense and his new found commitment to winning, I don't know if he has a role on this team. Jones plays SG-SF, both spots that are at a great surplus on the Knicks. Renaldo Balkman, Wilson Chandeler, Quentin Richardson, Jared Jeffries, and Demetris Nichols all have just as much flexibility as Jones. As a result of the Knicks depth at his position, it is not likely he will make it into the Knicks rotation this year.

Demetris Nichols appears to be the dark-horse for the last rotation spot. He is in a similar situation to Houston in that the Knicks want him to be on the team because of his deadly jumper, but it has not been made clear if Nichols will be on the team once November hits. I feel that if Houston does indeed come to the Knicks that Nichols may benefit the most from it. Houston could take Nichols under his wing, and explain to him what Nichols needs to do to become successful in the NBA working mainly from a jumpshot. Houston and Nichols have very similar games, and Nichols could benefit greatly from Houston's veteran presence.

As for Jeffries, reports during the off-season said that he was very disappointed with how last season went for him, and he has been a work-a-holic this off-season. In fact, reports have come out saying he is a "completely different player". Even if Jeffries was the same player he was last year I would not cut him, simply because he was clearly uncomfortable last season, but he showed flashes of playing very well at times. In addition, he is a defensive player that the Knicks, quite simply, can't get enough of on their team. Oh, and by the way, Jeffries has offered to give up his number 20 for Allan Houston, a move that could only help the way he is viewed in the locker room.

If the only options are truly to cut one of those three players I feel Jones should be the one that is cut. Unfortunately Jones could have been a help for this team had their been room for him on the court, but sometimes that is just the way the cookie crumbles (sorry about the Bruce Almighty reference).

Sunday, August 19, 2007

El Duque Becoming Mets Ace

The young Mets pitchers have struggled through most of the second half of the season. John Maine's era has sky rocketed from 2.71 to 3.59 thanks to a 6.31 era after the all-streak break. A seven game stretch which includes Maine allowing 8 home runs in 35.2 innings pitched (he allowed 10 home runs in the previous 109.2 innings pitched). Maine's struggles are to be expected, considering that 2007 is his first full season in the major leagues, and most young pitchers struggle when they reach this stage of their career.

Not only Maine has struggled, however. Oliver Perez's era has rose .38 points in the second half, and would be much higher had the five un-earned runs he allowed on July 26th counted as earned runs. Perez is struggling from similar problems that Maine has struggled through. Perez has allowed seven home runs in 41 innings pitched after the all-star break, while he allowed only eleven home runs in his previous 94.2 innings. Perez has not recorded a quality start since July 20th (I am not counting Perez's July 26th start as a quality start because he allowed 5 un-earned runs. Despite the fact that his line was 6 innings 0 earned runs.) and has been allowing hits at an alarming rate.

As mentioned earlier it was almost expected that Perez and Maine, the two youngest pitchers in the rotation, would struggle at some point in the season, however not many expected the staff's oldest pitcher (arguably) to be the team's ace. Orlando Hernandez's 3.09 era leads all Mets starters and his 1.10 WHIP is also the lowest amongst Mets starters. Thus far this season in El Duque's 21 starts he is 8-4 (the best win percentage among starters at 67%). Perhaps most importantly El Duque has been surprisingly consistent this season. El Duque throws a quality start roughly 75% of the time this season, also the best among Mets starters (Glavine is second at 70%). Whats more is Hernandez has a 2.42 era at home with an eye-popping .98 WHIP, and he has an era of 2.16 in his four starts against the division rival Phillies and Braves. No Mets starter has dominated both the Phillies and the Braves quite like El Duque has.

With his seven inning three hit masterpiece today against the Nationals El Duque is slowly becoming the Mets best pitcher. Before the season started and at times towards the end of last year Mets fans were thinking of having a rotation of Pedro-Glavine-Maine-Perez in the playoffs, with El Duque becoming a key cog in the Mets bullpen. Perhaps it's time to reconsider and put Maine or Perez in the pen.

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