Monday, February 25, 2013

49ers Shopping Alex Smith

With just 2 weeks to go before the 2013 NFL offseason can officially begin, the rumors surrounding 49ers QB Alex Smith have been running rampant.

After Colin Kaepernick took over the starting QB job for the 49ers in November last season, then carried them through the playoffs and within a play of winning a Super Bowl, it made Alex Smith expendable. Before Kaep came in and started working his magic though, Alex Smith was having his best statistical season as a pro, and had the 49ers on top in the West and well on their way to the playoffs. In roughly 8.5 games, Smith had a QB rating of 104, throwing for 1,737 yards with 13 scores and 5 picks. Not too shabby of numbers at all, and there are plenty of teams throughout the league that wouldn't mind having a young, efficient QB at the helm for them. With this being a weak draft class regarding QB's, and the list of free agents less than impressive, it makes Smith a surprisingly sought after commodity. The big rumor of the weekend had Smith headed to Kansas City when the 2013 business season officially begins March 12. I'm not sure what the 49ers would possibly get in return from KC, but if I'm the 49ers, I'm trying to get a starting corner or at least a 3rd rounder. I mean, Smith is a starting caliber QB who showed he can lead a team to the playoffs and has dramatically improved over the last 3 seasons. By no means should the 49ers just give this guy away just cause they've found a new starter.

Now, the one way I let Smith go for a later draft pick would be in order to clear some cap space for a legit free agent cornerback. There are a few out there on the market this year, and more could become available next month, but the one thing the 49ers badly need is a fast, cover-corner that can shadow an opposing team's number one wideout and not need help. The one guy who I really like, although he's been a bit of a letdown for Philly is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He's got the size, speed and physicality to be that true number one, and was becoming just that in Arizona before being traded in the Kevin Kolb deal. Their are Charles Woodson and Brent Grimes, but Woodson is approaching 40, and Grimes hasn't played a full, healthy season in 2 years, so I don't think I'd go with either of those two. Woodson could be intriguing on a one-year, Randy Moss-type deal if he's looking for another shot at a tittle, but there will probably be teams that offer him more than the 49ers should. A dark-hourse option who'd be my second choice behind DRC is Sean Smith. He's 6'3", 220 pounds and moves greatly for his size. Miami will reportedly pass on tendering him the franchise tag, so there's a good chance he'll be free. Outside of these guys, there really aren't many high-end starting corners on the market now.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Giants Interview with RazzBall

Alright, with Spring Training here, and the NFL season behind us, it's time to shift gears a little bit and get back into some baseball talk. I recently was interviewed by and we talked about some of the upcoming issues for the Giants for the 2013 season. Here it is below:

Q1: Other than news that Tim Lincecum no longer adorns long, Mitch Kramer locks, the fantasy community hasn't heard much about a player who was a fantasy disappointment for many in 2012.  What kind of bounce back, if any, should we expect from the still relatively young Lincecum and should owners be buying into Tiny Tim for 2013?

A: I think we're going to see a rebound from Lincecum for sure. Will he ever be the same guy that won those two Cy Young awards a few seasons back? Probably not. Lincecum appeared to have a "dead arm" for much of 2012, and you saw it come back to life in the postseason a bit after he was moved to the pen and his workload decreased. He's working this winter on adding some weight and muscle which in turn should help his endurance and performance out on the mound. What will be key for him is his command though. He's still got that nasty split-fingered changeup, and even though he's lost a few feet on his fastball, when he's got command of his arsenal, he's still one of the tougher guys to face in the league. My guess is he bounces back to something like 15-10 with an ERA in the mid-threes and that excellent strikeout rate staying intact.

Q2: Hunter Pence was yet another fantasy disappointment for owners last year who finished with a career low .253 average last year and whose numbers really tanked when he landed with San Francisco (59 games, .219 average).  Was this the case of someone who was putting too much pressure on himself after the trade and can we expect a more typical Pence season for 2013?
A: Pence was undoubtedly pressing early on after arriving in San Francisco, then he got hot for about a week, then cooled back down. I think it was making the adjustment to the new, bigger park and getting his feet under him out on the West Coast that hindered his performance, and I think we'll see closer to his career norm in 2013. Now, AT&T Park will hurt his power numbers a bit, he's not going to hit 30 jacks, but with the guys the Giants have lined up in front of him in the order, he's going to have ample RBI opps. That's one area he was very successful in with the Giants. He didn't get many hits, but when he did, they seemed like big, RBI hits. He's right in the prime of his career, and playing in a place he really enjoys being in, so I expect his performance to reflect that this season.

Q3: After being a waiver wire surprise for fantasy owners in 2011, Ryan Vogelsong kept the train rolling in 2012 with an increase to his K/9 and an extra win to boot.  Many sites - you can count ours in there - really thought this song should've ended in 2011 but he's pulled a Matt Cain with his ERA vs xFIP over the last two years.  So my question to you is, does he keep the good times rolling in 2013 and if you say 'yes' how can you be so sure?  Are you a part of the Matrix?

A: Vogey has gotten by with terrific command. I was surprised in my drafts last season that he fell so far, and I was able to get him late in both cases. I think everyone was expecting somewhat of a drop-off in 2012, but he looked even better than he was in 2011 for the most part. He did cool off down the stretch like he did in 2011, and that's something he's got to address going forward. He's getting up their in age, so expecting him to keep improving each season would be unrealistic. If I had to guess, I'd say he's do for a slight drop in 2013, but he's one of the hardest working guys on the team so it won't be because of lack of preperation. As long as his body holds up, he's going to continue to be an above-average pitcher.

Q4: Seven HRs and 12 steals.  That's what Brandon Belt did in 411 at-bats last year at the age of 24.  Tell me with 500 at-bats we have something better than me just prorating his first numbers over 500 at-bats.  Hrm, I guess that's not a question...please tell me we have something better than me just prorating his first numbers?

A: Honestly, Belt is one of the guys I'm most excited to see in 2013. I think this kid is really starting to put it together, and being a big part of a Championship team should only boost his confidence. As a matter of fact, in my upcoming seasons preview, I have Belt lined up to be the Giants breakout player in 2013. The only area I'm concerned about with him is his power numbers. Every other aspect of his game has improved with the more time he's gotten at the big league level, but his power numbers have been dwindling. As long as he keeps driving the ball, getting on base at a .340 clip or better, the power will come and he'll continue to be an asset to the lineup. Plus, his glove is so good, that he's a tough guy to remove from the lineup.

Q5: It's the Summer of Love all over again as Americans revolt against 'the man' in 2013 as Haight & Ashbury gets inundated with the smell of patchouli and the sounds of Jefferson Airplane all over again (or moreso than the usual now).  What will these damn, dirty hippies most remember - if anything - about their 2013 San Francisco Giants?

A) Lincecum quits baseball and starts his own head shop but of course says he no longer smokes and his paraphernalia is strictly to be used for tobacco...that's grown in Washington or Colorado
B) San Fran wins back to back WS
C) Pablo Sandoval finally realizes that his hamate bone issues stem directly from his eating the ham in it and stops doing so, leading to his first 30 HR season
D) Buster Posey is the NL MVP
E) Sergio Romo quits baseball after sales of his brand name T-Shirts 'I Only Look Illegal' make him a millionaire
F) Madison Bumgarner finally puts together a full season and finishes with at least 1 Cy Young vote this year.

A: You know, it would destroy not only the good people of San Francisco, but the real baseball enthusiasts all around if either A or E happened, so hopefully those things don't occur for many more years. I could see 'MadBum' getting Cy Young hype with a strong year, and we know another World Series and Posey MVP award is well within striking distance, but If I had to guess on just one, I'd say this will be the year of the Panda. His 3-HR game off Verlander in game one of the World Series really set the tone for that series, and I think Pablo will be coming in as focused and hungry (figuratively speaking) as ever. So long as he keeps that weight in check and can avoid those nagging DL stints, I think 30 home runs is a realistic possibility. So C, Pablo plays in 150 games, hits 30 jacks and drives in 100 runs!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Back to the Drawing Board for 49ers

Last season, after a tough loss in the NFC Championship, it was obvious where the 49ers had to improve. This year, however, despite narrowly missing their 6th ever Super Bowl championship, they have to feel pretty good about where they stand heading into the 2013 season.

Kaepernick: A True QB1
I've put off writing this for a few days as I tried to gain some prospective after that tough loss to Baltimore, but the more I look at the 49ers and what the future holds for them, the more confident I become. They've found their quarterback of the present and future in Colin Kaepernick, a guy who makes them a legit tittle contender now and should only get better over time. We tend to forget cause he was making it look so easy, but the Super Bowl marked just the 10th career start for the big-armed, quick-footed signal caller. Where I'd like to see him improve though in his first full season behind center, is in the clock management aspect of the game. The 49ers had all the time in the world during that last drive in the Super Bowl, but they just looked out of sync and unsure how to use the clock once they got down inside Baltimore's 10 yard-line with over 2 minutes left on the clock. There were numerous other instances which I'm sure they could have back in that game, but the last couple plays of that very last drive would have to be the spot they'd like to re-do the most as they really had the game in their hands at that point.

49ers Fall Short of SB Win
Again though, it was a sign of a young offense led by a young QB, that will only get better and better. They and offensive line that's one of the youngest and best in the game and all will be returning next season. Then there's the receiving core, which took a complete 180 in 2012 after being basically non-existent for most of 2011. You can put a lot of that on the emergence of Michael Crabtree, who finally took that next step in 2012 and showed everyone why he was so highly touted coming out of Texas Tech. He's a legit number one wideout and has developed a great chemistry with Kaepernick already. Mario Manningham was also putting up some solid numbers in the 49ers passing game before going down with a season-ending injury in December. When looking ahead to 2013, even if Randy Moss doesn't return, the 49ers have to feel good about where they are at wideout, and won't need to do nearly as much work there this spring.

Perhaps the area in which the 49ers need the most improvement lies within their secondary, and on their defensive line. At the tail-end of the season, the 49ers pass-rush became virtually non-existent, and it caused their pass-coverage to suffer some because of it. I know a lot of that had to do with Justin Smith being injured and not being 100% upon his return, but the 49ers need to get more depth along that front line, and could really use another impact corner. Carlos Rogers is still a viable starter and Chris Culliver took some big steps this year, but the Niners need that one premiere cover guy that they can throw on a Julio Jones and not need to worry about giving help to. They linebacking core looks great going forward, and I love their starting safeties, but more depth on the D-line and in the secondary could help out a defense that looked a bit tired at times in January/February. As far as their offense is concerned, I really don't see a dire need in any one particular area right now. They'll likely look into another veteran wideout to replace Moss (assuming he leaves) but the the one area offensively I could see them using a high draft pick on is at running back. Frank Gore isn't going anywhere anytime soon, but he's going to be 30 and has racked up a lot of mileage over the last 6 seasons.

We'll talk much more about what the 49ers will do this offseason throughout, but I just wanted to re-assure Niner fans still reeling from the loss on Sunday that even better times lie ahead, and that's coming from a guy who cannot stand the term "we'll get 'em next year"!