1. With only one month left in the regular season, who do you feel deserves the Cy Young in both the American League and National League?
AG: Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners is my pick for the American League Cy Young Award. Not only did he throw the first perfect game in franchise history, but he has also been one of the most consistent and relentless forces on the mound this season. What makes his case even stronger is that he pitches for a team that is last in the league in runs scored and batting average. As for the other candidates, Jered Weaver and David Price have also had great seasons, but still have less strikeouts, a lower WAR and a higher ERA. For the National League, R.A. Dickey is my guy. Right now, it’s a two-man race between him and Johnny Cueto of the Reds. Although both are nearly identical in ERA and wins, there is one key stat which really caught my attention. Dickey has thrown more shutouts this season than Cueto has complete games. What makes this remarkable feat even more incredible is his upbringing. He was able to shake off a rough childhood and still made it to the Major Leagues, making him an inspiration to all.
KL: My AL Cy Young ballot is between Verlander and Felix. They both have nearly identical xFIP, a stat assessing a pitcher’s talent level by looking at results a pitcher can control. That is, ballpark factors, fielding, the good luck dragon, etc. are all normalized. Furthermore their WAR’s are identical (leading the AL), suggesting that they have been able to perform similarly over long durations. With their stats so similar, I’d give the award to Felix because he was able to perform in a much tougher division than Verlander. Price isn’t in the consideration for me because, while he has a glossy ERA and high win total, who the hell really cares about those archaic stats. In the NL, I would have gone with Strasburg had he not been shut down early. However, like the AL, Kershaw’s and Dickey’s superficial and sabermetric statistics are very similar, and there is no clear runaway. Again the deal breaker for me is strength of schedule. Pitching in the NL West, Kershaw has had the luxury of facing the Padres and Giants a combined seven times, boosting his stats. Once we make this distinction, the Cy Young for me is Dickey.
CO: After comparing the stand out pitchers from this past year, I would have to say the National League Cy Young award winner should definitely be the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw. With a solid record of 12-8 and a current season ERA of 2.71, Kershaw has put up impressive numbers for the second year in a row. He is no doubt one of the many players on the Dodgers that will make this team a force to be reckoned with next year. Exploding onto the scene last year after grabbing his first Cy Young award (with a record of 21-5 and an ERA of 2.28), he is on track to finish with another spectacular run. For the American League, the Cy Young award should go to the Tampa Bay Rays’ David Price. He is 17-5 right now and has greatly improved his stats from last year’s record of 12-13. Price has been an integral part of the Rays these past few years and is looking to help his team make a run for the playoffs, being only 2.5 games back as of this week.
3 points go to Kevin on this one. He uses WAR and xFIP to bolster his argument, which is great to prove how good a pitcher really is. 2 points for Andrew because he talked about how bad Seattle is and that King Felix is still producing. 1 Point for Chrissy for showing David Price’s improvement in relation to last year.
2. With the NFL season kicking off this week, give your predictions for who will be in the Super Bowl and who will end up hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season.
AG: Super Bowl XLVII will be a matchup between the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers. After a crushing defeat last year against the Giants, the Patriots have made improvements in both their offense and defense. By picking up Pro Bowler Brandon Lloyd, the Patriots finally have the deep threat that they have so dearly missed since Randy Moss. On the other side of the ball, they spent six of their seven draft picks on the defense. After having the 31st ranked defense last year, they can only get better. This makes it scary for the other teams considering they were only four points shy of claiming the championship last year. As for the Packers, I also like their chances in making it to the title game. Reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers can lead his team back to the Super Bowl just like two years ago. With more offensive power and a much-improved defense, they have enough talent to dethrone the Giants to win the NFC. My Super Bowl prediction: Patriots win 27-24 by a last-minute field goal.
KL: I’m going to once again go with my picks I made last year, the Houston Texans and the Atlanta Falcons. Last year, I believe the Texans could have made it to the Super Bowl had Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson both been healthy. I also think that the AFC South is extremely weak, making the division theirs to lose. If the defense takes the next step, which it certainly can, the Texans will be dominant on both ends of the ball. Health is the key. The Falcons have always had a great all around team, but have never been spectacular. This year, I think Matt Ryan takes the next step into top-five QB status. With their new offensive coordinator Dick Koetter, Ryan will flourish. On the defensive end, the Falcons acquired Asante Samuel who should be a huge boost for their defense. The new defensive coordinator, Mike Nolan, will also implement an aggressive pass rush defense. Expect some career years on the defensive end. The Falcons will make the leap from a great team to an elite team. This will be the year, I tell you!
CO: After watching the opening game last Wednesday night, we can already tell it’s going to be one heck of an NFL season. Despite the N. Y. Giants’ first loss to the Dallas Cowboys this past week, I still choose them to be the NFC team to make it to the Super Bowl. Under the coaching of Tom Coughlin, these boys have been unbeatable. Eli Manning is looking as good as ever and Victor Cruz seems to be one of the best new players around. For the AFC, I would have to pick the Pittsburgh Steelers to be in the big game at the end. Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and the rest of the team are going to be looking for a better year than last year, after not making it to the Super Bowl. Out of these two teams, I am going to have to pick the Giants to take home the Lombardi Trophy for the second year in a row. Coming off of their fantastic run in 2011, they are going to definitely be a serious threat.
3 points for Kevin again. Houston and Atlanta each have something to prove this year, and he mentioned the new OC for the Falcons who may have a huge impact. 2 points for Chrissy because she took a huge risk by picking the Giants. 1 for Andrew because he picked the two favorites.
3. Of all the teams starting a rookie quarterback Week 1 in the NFL (Indianapolis, Washington, Miami, Cleveland, Seattle), which team will finish with the best record?
AG: Although he may not be the best starting rookie quarterback, Russell Wilson of the Seahawks will be the most successful. The main reason for this pick is because Seattle plays in the NFC West, one of the weakest divisions. The 49ers aside, the other two teams went 10-22 last season. Along with a having weaker schedule, Wilson just needs to protect the ball. With 7th-ranked running back Marshawn Lynch and 9th best defense from last year to complement him, he just can’t make careless mistakes. Wilson has proved that he is capable of playing this way. Not only did he have 33 TDs and just four INTs in college, but he had the second highest passer rating, 110.3, during the preseason. This great performance helped him to beat out expected starter Matt Flynn. Although I believe that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will have bigger years, because of their weaker supporting cast and tougher division, Wilson will lead his team to a better season.
KL: With Russell Wilson leading the Seahawks, Seattle will have the best record out of the group. The Seahawks had a 7-9 record last year, which was better than any of the teams listed. Therefore, with an improved quarterback this year, I’d expect the Seahawks to be no worse than they were last year. Wilson is very talented, and is a dark horse rookie of the year candidate. As a team, the Seahawks have the least amount of work to do. They are also in a favorable division where they can take advantage of the Rams twice. Wilson may not be better than RGIII or Luck, but he is on the better team for next year. Unless you believe that any of these teams are one quarterback away from significantly improving for next year, the Seahawks have to be the pick.
CO: After quite a bit of switching around of quarterbacks in the offseason, it is going to be very interesting to see how everyone copes with their new teams, but it’s also going to be cool seeing the rookie quarterbacks make an appearance as well. In my opinion, I think the Indianapolis Colts’ Andrew Luck will finish with the best record out of all the rookies. A first overall draft pick, Luck had played for Stanford University and won the Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Award while he was there. He was also the runner up for the Heisman Trophy in both 2010 and 2011. He has been called the Bryce Harper of the 2012 NFL season and has extremely high expectations. The Colts, coming off of a dismal season last year, will be itching to get back to the place they were at a few years ago and Luck hopes he can step up and help them back into the spotlight.
3 points for Andrew. He is correct in terms of Russell Wilson having to control the ball, and that his college career proves he can. 2 points for Chrissy because Andrew Luck is Andrew Luck. The Guy can seriously be a star in the NFL very quickly. Kevin gets 1 here, but I do agree Luck and RG3 should have better statistical years.