Loaded Bases and Cold Bats: Cougar Baseball Goes Cold Against Sun Devils (published by Alex Clark)

What the heck is the problem with the WSU baseball team? The last series against the ASU Sun Devils revealed that the problems that the Cougars face are far more than what was originally expected.

 

Over the weekend, the Cougars took only one game out of three from the team from the team from Tempe. While on the outside, this series looked like any other, it is what lies inside the box score that reveals the true demons of this team.

 

Before I analyze the games, the team has had some obvious problems going into the series.

 

The big problem was general defense. According to WSUCougars.com, the team has committed a grand total of 36 errors. They have played only 25 games which means that they make, on average, 1.44 errors per game. Each error means that another runner either gets on base, advances any number of bases, or possibly both. Errors only help the opposing team win easier.

 

The other problem was the offense. While there were games where the offense would explode for several runs, there were games where they would be held to maybe one or zero runs. With the offense being this streaky, it makes it near impossible for the pitching to do meaningful work.

 

The pitching is another problem, but I feel it isn’t too fair to judge the pitching when the defense puts them into positions where they are doomed to fail.

 

Now getting into the series against ASU, these problems are evident, along with a few others.

 

In game one, the Cougars lost badly by a score of 10-1 to ASU. This game was led by horrible defense and an offense that never got it going.

 

The Cougars committed a total of five errors in the game and only got five hits which resulted in one run. The Sun Devils were able to score ten runs on nine hits and only commit two errors. ASU was also led by pitcher Seth Martinez who went the distance getting five strikeout, no walks and not surrendering a single earned run.

 

Two Cougars did get two hits in the game. Redshirt Junior Trek Stemp and Freshman Mason Cerrillo both were able to get two hits apiece off of Martinez.

 

Game two was a completely different story though. The Cougars were able to score early in the game and keep the lead going through the game. Junior Ian Hamilton went five innings before Sophomore Ryan Walker went the rest of the way to earn an unusual four-inning save. The offense scored early and often. ASU never held a lead at any point in this game.

 

This game was an example of what this team is truly capable of. Thankfully, this game also gave Ian Hamilton his first win of the season bringing his record to 1-6.

 

The point where this series took a dark turn is in game three where WSU lost by a humiliating score of 18-3. That is not a typo, and this has been fact-checked. The Cougars lost by 15 points. There are only a few things that need to be said about this game. Combined as a team, the Cougars gave up 15 walks. That number alone should make baseball fans let out a small tear. The other is that they gave up 18 runs on 13 hits. That means most of those runs came from walks, not legitimate hits.

 

The series answered some questions about this team’s problems, but it raises more from it.

 

In this series, the offensive problems were addressed and shown for what they are. They were streaky and unpredictable. Over the course of the series, they scored an average of 4.3 runs per game, but without game two’s scoring production, they only scored on average two runs per game. That is horrible.

 

The other problem was the walks. In the series, the team gave up 22 walks. This takes the expression “can’t find the strike zone with a map” to a whole new level. Even though most came in game three alone, that number needs to change if the Cougars want to win in the future.

 

However, while these problems can be addressed, there is one conundrum from the series that can’t be answered so easily.

 

If the third game wasn’t weird enough, there was one stat that blew my mind once the game was over. Even though they lost by 15 points, the Cougars did not have a single error in the game.

 

In one of the biggest blowouts in recent Cougar history, the defense was nearly spotless.

 

This only goes to show how important limiting walks in games really is. Even if the defense does it’s job, it doesn’t matter if the pitching gives away free bases like they were flyers at an event table. .

 

Whatever the true reason for the Cougar’s struggles may be, I think I speak for everyone when I say that this team has amazing potential. With young stars like Mason Cerrillo and Ty Johnson, combined with team veterans like Ian Hamilton and Trek Stemp, the Cougars have a lot of talent up and down the lineup. There are a ton of problems that the team has to fix, and their ability to work through them will be the difference between winning going forward and being doomed to last place in the Pac-12.

 

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Seattle Mariner Fantasy Players: Hot or Not (published by Alex Clark)

With the fantasy baseball season less than two weeks away, fans in the pacific northwest have only one question on their minds. How Seattle Mariners can I stuff onto my squad?

 

Alright, maybe this is not fully accurate, but this does raise some questions about the team’s fantasy value. There are a lot of big names on this Mariner squad that are good to put on rosters..

 

This is not a list of who is better than whom, this is a list showing the best Mariners to target in fantasy drafts for their projected value. Everybody knows that players like Cano, Seager and Felix are gonna produce in fantasy. However, the question is, are they worth their draft value.

 

Just because a player is hot or not, doesn’t mean owners should draft or avoid them at all in the draft. If their value is good, then go for it. For example, avoid drafting Kyle Seager in the first round, but he is a steal if he is availble past round 10.

 

For this list, I will be using the average draft position (ADP) from Yahoo leagues and basing the rounds using a 10-person league to keep it fair for everybody.

 

  1. Felix Hernandez: Hot

 

Everybody saw this coming from a mile away, but there is a reason why he is hot on this list. Going back to previous years, Felix has normally been a first round pick in pretty much every league.

 

This year, his draft value has fallen hard. According to Yahoo fantasy, he is projected to go in the 5th round with an ADP of 45.1.

 

Personally, I feel that his draft position is way too low. He is an ace who has a revamped offense behind him that should get him more wins. While he did experience a down year last season, he is poised to have a bounceback season.

 

If teams can snag him in the fourth or fifth round of drafts, he should be a solid pick up to any team.

 

  1. Robinson Cano: Not

 

While he is the star hitter for the team, his draft projections scare me a bit. He is rated as the third best second baseman only behind Jose Altuve and Dee Gordon, according to Yahoo fantasy. With an ADP of 54.0 in the 6th round, his stock has certainly fallen since last year.

 

Although his value has dropped, I would advise staying away from Cano where he is projected.

 

Cano has a history of struggling in the first half of the season before picking up the pace in the second half. While the second half is usually very strong for him, it makes fantasy owners scared to start him before he gets hot.

 

If teams really want him, I would recommend trying to trade for him around the league trade deadline. Otherwise, avoid him until maybe round seven or eight.

 

  1. Kyle Seager: Hot

 

Mr. Hawt Corner has proven himself as a true elite third baseman in the past few years. While he is one of the best in the game, his fantasy projections tell a different tale. According to Yahoo fantasy, he is projected to go in the 10th round with nine other third baseman ahead of him.

 

I feel that this is something that Mariner fans can take advantage of. We have seen Kyle put up amazing numbers in years past. However, on the flip side, we have seen Kyle slump a lot in years past as well.

 

This would normally be a concern, but since he is not projected to go until the 10th round, this is worth the risk. If he is around in rounds 9-11, I would highly consider taking him.

 

  1. Nelson Cruz: Not

 

This year’s fantasy draft is extremely stacked in two areas: outfield and starting pitching. This does not help Cruz because of the depth in talent that owners can find going through the draft.

 

According to Yahoo fantasy, Cruz is projected as a third or fourth round player with an ADP of 33.4. This high of a draft position is his true undoing.

 

While he is a true home run champion, there is so much OF talent in this draft that passing on Cruz with the third round pick would be alright to do.

 

However, if he falls to the 4th or even the fifth round, feel free to scoop him up and reap the benefits.

 

  1. Hisashi Iwakuma: Hot

 

As stated earlier, this draft is full of solid SP. While Cruz suffered from the position, Iwakuma will thrive from it.

 

Iwakuma is rated as the 49th best SP in the draft with an ADP of 159.9, according to Yahoo fantasy. In most leagues, he is projected to go in the 16th round. For 16th round projections, Iwakuma is a solid pick-up that can fill in any starting roster.

 

There is some risk in drafting the Bear from Seattle. He was supposed to play for the Dodgers this year, but failed a physical making him re-sign with the Mariners. He is an injury risk, but for a late draft pick, the risk will be more than worth the reward.

 

If Iwakuma is available from the 15th round on, highly consider adding him to the squad.

 

  1. Nori Aoki: Hot

 

This is an odd situation for fantasy owners. Not because Aoki is rated too high or too low, but because he is barely rated at all.

 

According to Yahoo fantasy, Aoki’s ADP is 244.3 and projected to be drafted between the 23rd and 24th round. However, the biggest stat is something I haven’t talked about yet. Aoki has only been drafted in five percent of drafts.

 

It is hard to put a value on this because it is very possible that Aoki falls to be undrafted.

 

Nori definitely has value. He doesn’t strike out that much and he is going to get plenty of at-bats as the lead off hitter for the team. With a good amount of speed and contact, he is a solid fantasy choice.

 

He is definitely worth a selection in any round after the 22nd. This may be the steal of the draft if Aoki does his job with the Mariners and stays healthy.

 

  1. Adam Lind: Hot

 

Like Aoki, this is an odd situation because of his rating. The only difference is that Lind has been drafted in 95% of drafts, according to Yahoo fantasy.

 

According to Yahoo fantasy, Lind is drafted at the twilight of most drafts with an ADP of 237.5 and drafted on average in the 24th round. He is worth drafting only for the fact that he will be a great backup first baseman.

 

The difference between Aoki and Lind is that Lind has a higher chance of being drafted. With him being picked in 95% of drafts, he is more likely to get picked than Aoki, even though Aoki is valued as only slightly lower than Lind.

 

Lind does have some risk though. He is on a new team and is going to be on a mild platoon situation in Seattle. However, since he will be mostly a back-up, the platooning won’t affect his value.

 

If he is forced to start due to an injury, another backup first baseman will be needed to avoid losing points when Lind doesn’t start.

 

Lind is a good decision to draft with a late round draft pick, but if he falls undrafted, it would be an even better decision to pick him up for free. I would recommend drafting him, but if he falls, don’t feel bad.
The Mariners do have good fantasy value this year, but being “Teamist” will not help fantasy owners win championships. These are just the main ones to watch for that could help owners win their leagues.

Seattle Mariners 2016 Preview (Kevin Vallene)

The MLB regular season is less than two weeks away and after a disappointing 2015, the Seattle Mariners are looking for a rebound in 2016 with a rebuilt roster crafted by new General Manager Jerry Dipoto and manned by first time manager Scott Servais.

After taking over for Jack Zduriencik following the 2015 season, Dipoto had a clear goal in mind for the offseason. Tailor the team to the spacious Safeco Field. The Mariners teams built on power bats and strikeouts coupled with poor defense and speed have been tossed out the window.

No more Mark Trumbo or Logan Morrison. Fans will also see considerably less of Mike Zunino who will spend most of the season in Tacoma to work on his swing and batting approach. Enter Leonys Martin and Norichika Aoki, both of whom provide excellent defense in the outfield and speed on the base paths. Enter Chris Iannetta who is a veteran presence behind the backstop and is known for a high on base percentage (.351 for his career).

The Mariners have already seen improvements in Spring Training. They are ranked 3rd in stolen bases and 8th in batting average. While you cannot put a lot of stock into spring training numbers, it is a welcome sight to see this team delivering on the plan Dipoto set forth, that being to make this team more athletic and less one dimensional.

The rotation was also beefed up with the additions of Wade Miley and Nathan Karns along with the return of Hisashi Iwakuma. It remains to be seen whether James Paxton or Karns will grab the fifth starter spot but having depth waiting in Triple-A if someone goes down with an injury is always a good thing.

One area of need in the offseason was the bullpen. The Mariners were 25th in bullpen ERA in 2015 after leading the league the previous year. Dipoto added the consistent reliever Joaquin Benoit but traded away arguably the M’s best bullpen arm last year in Carson Smith as well as Tom Wilhelmson. The rest of the reworked bullpen includes numerous bounceback candidates including former Marlins closer Steve Cishek, Ryan Cook, Evan Scribner and Justin De Fratus.

The patch job in the bullpen is already showing cracks with three of Dipoto’s bounceback signings doubtful to make the opening day roster. Cook and Scribner are dealing with injuries and De Fratus has had a rocky spring with reduced velocity. Combine this with the nagging injury to Charlie Furbush which will keep him from being available on Opening Day, and arm soreness felt by the 39 year old Benoit and you have massive question marks for your bullpen.

Despite a shaky bullpen, the rest of this Mariners squad is well crafted and should have a real chance to get into the postseason this year, either as a division winner or a wild card team.

Houston is the team to beat with their copious amounts of young stars and are the clear favorites to win the AL West. They have the reigning Cy Young winner in Dallas Keuchel and one of the best second baseman in baseball in Jose Altuve. The Astros will also look forward to seeing a full year of reigning Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa as well as George Springer. Besides first base, no position appears to be an area of weakness. The team also acquired Doug Fister to beef up the rotation and Ken Giles to improve a bullpen that blew the ALDS against the Kansas City Royals last season. The Astros should be very competitive and will likely compete for the division title and beyond.

The Texas Rangers are looking to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke and will have a full season of Cole Hamels as well as Yu Darvish. The Rangers have a sturdy rotation and can expect good years from Prince Fielder and Shin Soo Choo among others. However, Adrian Beltre is getting older and dealt with injuries last year and it is unsure as to how converted shortstop Ian Desmond will do in left field. The Rangers still have a good shot to defend their division title.

The Los Angeles Angels are a big unknown this year. While they have the best player on the planet in Mike Trout, they also have question marks in their rotation by the names of Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson. In order to remain below the Luxury Tax and avoid paying a fee, the Angels opted not to sign one of the big outfielders on the market and are left with a Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry platoon in left field. In the bullpen, beyond Huston Street and Joe Smith, many of the arms struggled in 2015. While the Angels could compete for a Wild Card spot, it may be an uphill battle.

The Oakland Athletics were the worst team in the American League last year and decided to retool rather than rebuild this offseason. The only big moves made were the acquisition of Khris Davis (not Chris Davis) from the Brewers to play left field and the signing of reliever Ryan Madson.  Davis provides some pop with a lot of strikeouts and Madson had a revival last year with the Kansas City Royals after sitting out the previous four years due to injuries. While these small moves should make the team marginally better, it shouldn’t make for much of a difference from the last place finish in 2015.

The AL West looks to be a three team race, possibly four depending on the Angels. If the Mariners can stay healthy this year and play to their ballpark, they should have a good chance to end their postseason drought in 2016.

 

WSU Women’s Basketball vs. Utah (Recap)

The Utah Utes women’s basketball team (16-13, 8-10) stunned Washington State (14-15, 5-13) on Saturday afternoon 75-69 in what was a gutsy, second-half comeback win in both teams’ regular season finale. Continue reading

WSU Women’s Basketball Pac-12 Tournament Preview

In just six days, the Washington State Cougars women’s basketball team will head across the mountains to Seattle for the annual Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament. Similar to other conference tournaments, the winner of championship game (Sunday, 6:00 PDT on ESPN) will receive an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. Other teams look to use this tournament to strengthen their NCAA and NIT Tournament resumes, while the remaining teams will simply call it a season after leaving Seattle in this single-elimination tournament.
The Cougars (14-14-, 5-12) will head to the tournament as a surprisingly young team with a chip on its shoulder after what has been a disappointing regular season. After starting off non-conference play 9-2, the Cougars have trudged through their conference schedule. They have lost four of their conference games by a combined nine points, exposing a problem head coach June Daugherty and her teams have had the last several years: The inability to close out games. The Cougars endured a nine-game losing streak which was snapped last Sunday after a 62-61 win against Arizona down in Tucson. On Thursday night, the Cougars shot over 55% from the floor and defeated the Colorado Buffaloes, so if anything is going Washington State’s way, it’s that they have some momentum heading into next week’s tournament.
The Cougars’ struggle this season is not a surprise when you consider they took a blow offensively by losing leading scorers Tia Presley and Lia Galdeira last summer. While Presley was a senior and graduated from WSU, Galdeira, a junior, opted to sign a professional contract with Haskovo 2012, a women’s team located in Bulgaria. However, as the Cougars lost one star to Bulgaria, they gained another from the same country. Enter freshman guard Borislava Hristova, otherwise known as “Bobi Buckets” to her teammates. Tapping into the international recruiting market like the Cougars have done time and time again, Hristova came to Pullman ranked at the No.1 overall international collegiate recruit, according to NetScouts Basketball International.

The recipient of two Pac-12 Freshman of the Week awards, Hristova leads the Cougars in scoring with 16.1 points per game and a field goal percentage of 45.2, both which land her in the top ten for the entire conference. Success doesn’t usually happen this quickly as it has for Hristova in her situation; usually it takes time for European basketball players to adjust to the higher level of competition in the United States, but Hristova’s production has made her one of the conference’s top scoring threats.

With this production as a freshman, it’s terrifying to think about her potential come her junior and senior seasons.

Washington State still has their regular season finale to play before heading to Seattle for the women’s tournament. They will tip-off against the Utah Utes (15-13, 7-10) on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. on what is Senior Day. Prior to the opening tip, the Cougars will honor their four seniors on the roster: guards Dawnyelle Awa, Taylor Edmondson, Alexas Williamson, and forward Mariah Cooks in what will be their final time taking the hardwood at Beasley Coliseum. The Cougars fell to Utah 73-71 earlier this season in Salt Lake City and a victory over them on Saturday would be a nice ending to the Cougars season.
KUGR Radio will have the live broadcast of Washington State’s games at the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament, which gets underway on March 3 at KeyArena in Seattle.

As of right now, the Cougars are the ninth seed in the tournament meaning they will play the eighth seed in the first game of the tournament on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. This weekend’s women’s basketball game results obviously may change the Cougars current seeding, but they can’t fall any further than the tenth seed and can’t receive a higher seeding than the eighth seed due.

Stanford Overpowers Washington State

The Cardinal took care of business at home cruising to a 34-17 victory. A week removed from an explosive offensive performance posting 59 points with a record setting 734 passing yards in a game, Connor Halliday and his offense were flat against Stanford.

WSU’s offense was subpar at best against the Cardinal, producing just 266 yards of total offense. WSU’s passing numbers held to low standards by the Air Raid formula because the ground attack was nowhere in site; the running game lost the Cougs 26 yards of offense. The only positive take away from WSU was turning the ball over once, via an interception. Halliday completed 42 of his 69 passes for 292 yards, 2 TD’s and 1 INT. Considering WSU was a one-dimensional team, Halliday played spectacular. River Cracraft was the lone receiver for WSU to have 100 receiving yards from 14 catches and 1 TD.

WSU’s defense did not look much better then the offense. However, the special teams did not yield a touchdown from either a kick or punt return, even when Stanford’s speedster, senior WR, Ty Montgomery received the ball. The defense however did give WSU a chance to beat Stanford and kept the team on the Cardinal’s heels for the majority of the game. Senior QB, Kevin Hogan was efficient, completing 23 of his 35 passes for 284 yards and 3 TD’s. His favorite target, Montgomery, caught the ball 7 times for 72 yards. Senior RB, Remound Wright had 14 carries for 98 yards and 1 TD. Junior RB, Barry Sanders added to the Cardinal’s running game with 7 carries and 68 yards.

Stanford executed everything correctly and WSU unfortunately could not. The Cardinal’s offense is about as balanced as it gets, 284 passing yards and 193 rushing yards. Stanford mixed and matched their play calling with 35 passing plays and 33 running plays. David Shaw’s play calling was excellent this game, a critical reason why his team pulled away from the Cougars toward the end.

On the flip side, WSU’s play calling consisted of mainly passing. WSU had 69 passing plays and 11 running plays. However, Leach and company were put in a difficult spot because Stanford snuffed the run from the start of the game. This forced the Cougars to rely solely on the air attack. This game will down as yet another loss for the Cougars, which leaves WSU’s bowl hopes, slim to none at a record of 2-5 overall. If the Cougars want to put on a winning run, a running game needs to be established, this will allow WSU to throw the opposing defense different looks and not operate as a one dimensional offense. A bye week is coming at a good time; the Cougars have a lot of work ahead of them to compete for a bowl game.

By Matthew Segal

WSU Sparks a Stunning Comeback

A week removed from a heartbreaking and controversial officiating game against #2 Oregon resulting in a 38-31 loss at Martin Stadium, WSU mounted an impressive 28-27 comeback victory against the Utah Utes in Salt Lake City. The Cougars got off to a dreadful start down by 21 points after the first quarter highlighted by Connor Halliday throwing a pick six to senior defensive back, Eric Rowe, after his first snap of the game.

The Utes pounded the Cougars during the first half with a 24-7 lead going into half time. Utah’s playing calling was highlighted by their instrumental running game. Junior running back Devontae Booker finished the game with 24 carries, 178 rushing yards, and 1 TD. The running game was the only edge Utah had over the Cougars. Junior QB Travis Wilson completed 18 of his 38 passes for 165 yards.

Whatever Mike Leach told his players in locker room clearly motivated the team coming out of the half. The Cougars outscored the Utes 21-3 in the second half. The recipe for success entailed a stout defense with an effective running attack to open the passing lanes. Halliday led the way for the Cougs completing 39 of his 61 passes for 417 yards resulting in 4 TD’s and 2 INT’s. His two favorite targets were sophomore sensation WR River Cracraft and senior WR Vince Mayle, combining for a total of 246 yards and 2 TD’s. Junior WR Dom Williams accounted for the other two passing touchdowns adding 73 yards to the total number of passing yards. WSU’s ground attack prove to be very effective led by a pair of freshmen running backs in Gerard Wicks and Jamal Morrow resulting in 104 rushing yards between the two.

After five weeks the Cougars will head into Homecoming Week 2-3 overall and 1-1 in PAC-12 play. While fans may be shaking their head wondering why the Cougars performance against Oregon and Utah were not present during the Rutgers and Nevada game, all signs indicate the Cougars are back on track. Heading into the game Utah was 3-0 highlighted by wins against Fresno State at home 59-27 and an impressive road victory against Michigan 26-10. Undoubtedly, given the events that occurred last year between the two teams, Utah was seeking revenge against the Cougars. To recap last year’s game, WSU heading into their game against Utah last year needed one more win to become bowl eligible. Utah heading into the game needed two wins to become bowl eligible, Utah finished last year with five wins. The rest is history. Not only was WSU victorious against a 3-0 impressive Utah team, the Cougars showed tremendous character and exposure leading them to the victory.

About two weeks, I wrote an article recapping the game against PSU where I stated the Cougars improved in a variety of areas, an established running game to open the passing attack, defensive stops, and a decreased amount of penalties. The Cougars stuck to this formula during the second half to notch their second win of the season. WSU has a long road ahead of them to reach a bowl game but Saturday’s game was a statement. The Cougars could have easily given up after the first quarter. Down by 21 points with the rain coming down hard, the team gathered themselves and shocked the Utah faithful. A win like this should give Cougar fans hope that a bowl game is back in picture if the Cougars can replicate their second half performance toward the rest of their season. It starts next Saturday against CAL in an “Air Raid” offense showdown.

By Matthew Segal