Archive for the ‘Broad Street Sports’ Category

There are small, inconsequential trades that nobody cares about. There are bigger trades that nonetheless are expected (see: Goran Dragic trade). And then there are huge trades that fans are absolutely flabbergasted by. Those are the most fun trades, the ones that engender the most debate and the “Whaaaaat????????” reactions. It just so happens that the city of Philadelphia has made two of those moves in a matter of a few weeks. First came the Michael Carter-Williams trade, which sent the point guard for a draft pick. Yesterday’s LeSean McCoy trade was an even bigger shock, sending the Eagles’ most explosive player for linebacker Kiko Alonso. Beyond the fact that both moves were bold, they have a lot of similarities. One is that both included supposed franchise cornerstones, both of whom are in the prime of their careers. Another is that both decision makers (Sam Hinkie and Chip Kelly) are making their team worse in order to have more longterm potential and flexibility. And another is that, while both moves angered the traditionalists (read: eye-test lovers and number-haters) and emotional Philly fans, they were both applauded by the analytics crowd, which just underlines the fact that both teams are at the front of the numbers revolution. Anyway, I already went over the MCW trade, so let’s take a look at the McCoy trade from both sides.

From Buffalo’s side, this trade has been largely applauded. It makes a lot of sense. The Bills, under new coach Rex Ryan, were a top defense last year, even as Alonso sat out the year with a torn ACL. And Ryan is a widely-acclaimed defensive coach, so it’s unlikely that Buffalo were going to need much more on the defensive side of the ball, especially when considering their fantastic front seven. Ryan’s also a coach who loves running the ball (a dying breed these days) and will be delighted with McCoy. A quick profile of McCoy:

Positives:

  • He’ll be just 27 years old come week one of the 2015 season.
  • He’s had four 1,000 yard seasons in the past six years
  • He averages 4.6 yards per carry for his career
  • He’s as shifty and elusive as it gets. Nearly impossible to tackle in the open field
  • Eagles fans are really sad to see him go. That probably means he’s pretty good and super fun to watch.
  • Despite not being especially big, he’s missed just six games in his six year career

Negatives:

  • He carries a $10.25 million cap hit, second among running backs behind Adrian Peterson
  • His yards-per-carry dropped from 5.1 in 2013 to 4.2 last year
  • His best season – 2013 – came with the help of perhaps the best offensive line in football. Last year, with a banged up offensive line, he regressed. Buffalo’s offensive line is below average.
  • He has more carries in the past two years than anyone other than DeMarco Murray.

Shady will immediately become a fan-favorite in Buffalo and the biggest weapon on the offense. Considering the fact that the Bills are without a consistent quarterback (they just signed Matt Cassel, which is all you need to know) and a first round pick (traded in the Sammy Watkins trade last year), the fact that they were able to trade for McCoy is even more important. They also didn’t risk a lot, considering the fact that McCoy can be cut if things turn sour and the fact that Alonso, after a terrific rookie season, missed all of last season. Ten years ago, there would have been no doubt that the Bills did amazingly in this trade, but after numerous misses on heralded running backs (Willis McGahee, C.J. Spiller), I’m more skeptical. Are the Bills missing the boat on running backs, a position that has been almost universally downgraded? If nothing else, the fact that the best player the Eagles could get for their star is Kiko Alonso speaks volumes.

For Eagles fans, this comes as a shock, even considering that the same team cut star receiver DeSean Jackson last offseason. While Jackson was always considered to be a tough guy for the coaching staff to deal with, McCoy was always all-smiles. But when you get past the initial shock and look at this objectively, this trade makes a ton of sense for the Eagles, too. The biggest thing this does is open up cap space. Not only do the Eagles go from paying McCoy more than $10 million to paying Alonso $800,000, but the acquisition of Alonso also makes veteran DeMeco Ryans expendable, saving the Eagles another $7 million. That extra $17 million can be used to re-sign Jeremy Maclin (or go for Randall Cobb instead) and go after outside linebacker, guard, and secondary upgrades. The Eagles have a huge amount of cap space, more than most teams with as much talent as they have, and should be able to use that for immediate upgrades.

McCoy might have seemed like a perfect fit for Chip Kelly’s offense based on his speed and pass-catching ability, but that’s just superficial. Kelly prefers downhill, North-South runners to McCoy-esque dancers, which makes Philadelphia’s alleged interest in Mark Ingram very believable. And with Chris Polk and Darren Sproles likely to come back, it’s not as if the cupboard is now bare at running back for the Eagles.

Contrary to what people might be saying, the Eagles didn’t just dump McCoy for salary relief. As a rookie two years ago, Kiko Alonso was fantastic. He had 159 tackles as a 23 year old and played more snaps than anyone at the position besides, ironically, DeMeco Ryans. He got D-ROY buzz. But then he tore his ACL, four years after he tore the ACL in his other knee while with Oregon (I’m ignoring the Chip Kelly-Oregon thing because I really think it’s been overblown. Besides Alonso, every Duck on the Eagles roster is set to be a marginal producer next season). It’s fair to say that he’s starting to earn an injury-prone label. He’s also a three down linebacker when healthy, a fantastic guy to pair with Mychal Kendricks, and a really cheap middle linebacker for the next few years. And while Rex Ryan is focusing on offensive players because he figures he can coach lesser defenders up, offensive-maestro Chip Kelly is doing the opposite. With a young and productive front-seven to go along with a (hopefully) remade secondary, the Eagles could be very good defensively next season.

Player-for-player trades normally turn out really well for one team and not so well for the other. I assume that will happen here. Right now, I’d call the Eagles the winners of the trade, if only barely. But then I watch a LeSean McCoy highlight and the Bills are the winners. That’s how undecided I am about this trade. McCoy was great for the Eagles, but there were moments when we all got frustrated with his East-West style. I remember many people (the majority of Eagles fans, easily) who thought that Polk and/or Sproles deserved more playing time and McCoy less. So before you jump on the Eagles for trading an All-Pro for a guy who didn’t play last year, remember that, and remember the fact that the NFL just doesn’t care for running backs anymore. It’ll be interesting to see how this trade looks in five years.

Yesterday, the Phillies signed A.J. Burnett to a one year deal that will be worth 16 million dollars. The reactions have been mixed. The pessimists say that they paid too much for a 37 year old pitcher, and that Burnett is not a great fit for this team. Burnett is a ground ball pitcher, and he will be hurt by the Phillies’ poor infield range, they say. Also, Burnett will help the Phillies, but they are still a long way away from contending for the playoffs.

The optimists say that a one year deal for a good player is always a good thing. The Phillies were very thin at the back of the rotation, and desperately needed this depth. This addition makes sense in the context of the Marlon Byrd, Carlos Ruiz, and Roberto Hernandez signings. Ruben Amaro thinks they can contend, so this one-year deal makes sense. The worst case scenario is that if they fall out of contention early, they can trade Burnett mid-season for some young prospects.

I fall in between the two schools of thought. Generally, I like one year contracts, and I also like A.J. Burnett. He’s a good pitcher, and a huge improvement over Jonathan Pettibone. It never hurts to have starting pitching depth, and Burnett is pretty good. On the other hand, the deal might be more complicated one year deal. It turns out that the deal might include a 2015 player option, which means the Phillies are on the books for two years. Burnett was also given a limited no trade clause (the extent of the NTC has still not been reported). These two factors at least partially negate two of the biggest positives of this contract: Burnett’s tradability and the one year deal. I also don’t think the Phillies are remotely close to the playoffs, so while I like the concept of this deal (signing a good player to a short deal), I don’t think it is an ideal fit for a team that probably should be rebuilding and going the route of youth.

At almost the same time that Burnett was signed, there was bad news; Cole Hamels will not be ready for opening day. He has tendinitis in his left (throwing) shoulder that he says cropped up when he started revamping his workout regimen in November. Shoulders are tricky, and Hamels says that he “see myself pitching in April”, which is positive but not exactly hope-instilling. The fact that we know in mid February that Hamels will likely open the season on the DL is a bad thing, and this is the kind of injury that could easily become a week to week thing and not a day to day thing come April. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hamels either didn’t pitch in April or aggravated his injury. The Phillies can’t afford to have Hamels injured. As things stand, they are at best a very fringe playoff contender. If EVERYTHING goes right, I can see them making the playoffs. Ryan Howard would need to have a big bounce back season. Chase Utley would have to stay healthy. Jimmy Rollins and Ruiz would also have to bounce back, and plenty of other players will have to step up. What they can’t afford is injuries to their best players, and Hamels is the second best player this team has. A.J. Burnett or not, this team is not getting anywhere if Cole Hamels is injured, and he is already injured.

Philly Woes

Posted: 07/30/2013 by levcohen in Broad Street Sports

Fivetool has made a temporary escape from the sporting hell known as Philadelphia and has asked me to fill his size-11’s for an evening.  Truth be told, these are not the most inspirational days for sports buffs here in the City of Fraternal Love.  In recent years, the Phillies had ascended to the baseball elite and tickets were hard to come by.  Now the team’s core has aged without the front office doing anything to look out for the future and the team is agonizing to watch.  (It is, of course, much easier to come by tickets.)  The prognosis for the Phillies is similar to their basketball neighbors, the Sixers, namely to get better they will have to get worse first.  In the case of the Sixers, the process has begun.  In consecutive off-seasons, the Sixers have traded away their one All Star.  The first such move, disposing of Andrew Iguodata for Andrew Bynum, was a disaster and set the team back at least a year.  Now Jrue Holliday has been traded for even younger, and completely raw, talent.  This seems to be step forward, but as with the Phillies, there are going to be some ugly times before these franchises recover.  At least the Sixers have set a course and laid out a strategy.  The Phillies still seem to be wavering, although it is hard to believe they won’t move anyone before the trade deadline.  The men in green, the Eagles, have also set a new course by hiring a college coach, CHip Kelly, with a decidedly different offensive scheme.  His energy and success would be more contagious if he had personnel to fit in his scheme, but the roster and the scheme will have to find a comfortable meeting place before the Eagles can return to success.  At least they are likely to be more fun to watch this year, which is more than can be said for the Sixers and Phillies.  As for the fourth of the Big 4, the Flyers, they have the most talent on their roster but have struggled with key injuries and inconsistent goaltending over the last several seasons.  How well they do this season is a complete crapshoot, but they are the only one of these four teams with a legitimate shot to make the playoffs, and they have enough talent to at least be worth watching.  While all of these franchises are struggling, a look a few miles down I-95 toward the home of the Philadelphia Union soccer time offers some hope.  They have rebounded from some bad personnel decisions and returned to MLS relevancy (if that is not an oxymoron!).  While they are still not a championship calibre team, they are capable side who play in a beautiful stadium with plenty of buzz in the stands.  At least the Phillies have the beautiful stadium, albeit with all the buzz of a cup of decaf.

Onetooljourneyman

Jrue Holiday to New Orleans

Posted: 06/28/2013 by levcohen in Basketball, Broad Street Sports

As a 76er fan, I was shocked when we dealt Jrue Holiday. Absolutely shocked. I mean, I thought we might make some trades. Our roster was in flux, and we had a new GM. Plus, why else would we wait until July to sign a coach? It was clear to me that Sam Hinkie and Philadelphia were going to make a trade. Nobody told me we would be trading our all-star point guard, who will enter next season at 23 years old. Holiday, it seemed, was a perfect piece for us. He is young, experienced, has a manageable 10 million contract, was invested in the franchise, and is already an all-star. So when we traded him, I just stared into space for a while. Shocked. Then, as you might expect, I looked into the details. We would be receiving Nerlens Noel, a center who, after being the sure #1 pick, fell the #6 because of knee problems. So yes, for two years in a row we just traded our best player for a center with knee problems. Since the first experiment worked so well, why not try it again, right? Well, it’s not all bad. Noel doesn’t have degenerative knees. He just tore his ACL, and at his age, should have a good chance at recovering fully.

In the trade, the 76ers also received New Orleans’ first round pick in 2014, as long as the pick is not in the top five. I think we can be confident that the Pelicans will be in the lottery, but will not be bad enough to gain a top five pick. Now, this pick is a lot more significant than it seems. Apparently, almost no team was willing to trade a 2014 first rounder, especially mediocre teams, because next year’s draft is set to be terrific. But we got New Orleans’ first rounder, and that could turn out to be a lottery pick.

After I checked the details of the trade, I looked at what people were saying about it, and it turned out better than I thought it would. Most Philly fans hate the trade. I mean, who wouldn’t? Trading an all-star for a pair of unknowns seems daunting at best. Some traditional “experts” also disliked the trade for us. But the analytical crowd loved the deal for us. Chad Ford, the draft expert, loved it, and that makes sense. He is not an all-star expert. He is a draft expert, and we got two high picks. Kevin Pelton, a huge ESPN numbers guy, also loved it. He gave New Orleans a “D” and Philadelphia an “A+” on this trade. Here is the beginning of Pelton’s explanation:
Since the 76ers hired Sam Hinkie in mid-May, we’ve been waiting for some indication of his vision for the franchise. Well, we unmistakably got it Thursday. Hinkie is ripping apart a team that was stuck in the middle of the Eastern Conference and heading — at least temporarily — for the bottom. That’s the message in trading away Holiday, Philadelphia’s best player, for a pair of first-round picks.

With the loaded 2014 draft class 12 months away, this is the time to rebuild. Noel is the ideal centerpiece in that regard. In time, Noel — rated far and away the best player in this year’s draft by my WARP projections — could be a star and every bit as good as Holiday. In 2013-14, coming back from ACL surgery, Noel is unlikely to contribute. A 76ers team with no Holiday, and presumably no Andrew Bynum, could be among the contenders for the No. 1 overall pick. Depending where New Orleans’ pick lands, Philadelphia could easily have a pair of top-10 picks in what is considered the deepest draft in years.

Holiday for Noel would have been a decent move for Philadelphia. Add in the 2014 first-round pick and this deal is an enormous win for the 76ers.

This should, and does, inspire hope. But don’t immediately believe Pelton’s words for truth. Pelton and GM Sam Hinkie probably have a lot of the same numbers and beliefs. So if Hinkie makes a trade or acquisition, Pelton is likely going to like it.

The 76ers are going to be really bad this year. Here is a look at their projected roster:
PG: Michael Carter-Williams, Charles Jenkins
SG: Evan Turner, Jason Richardson
SF: Thaddeus Young, Arsalan Kazemi
PF: Arnett Moultrie, Lavoy Allen
C: Nerlens Noel (injured), Spencer Hawes, Kwame Brown

This is horrible, and it’s probably not final. Expect Evan Turner to be the next out the door, as the Sixers already tried to move him during the draft. Three of the 11 players on roster are rookies, and one is hurt. But the more I look at this trade, the more I like it. If we hadn’t made a trade like this, we would have been stuck in mediocrity, and that is the worst place to be. Now, we stink, and could be in line for a top five pick in a stacked draft. Now is a better time than ever to start TANKING FOR WIGGINS.

I still am not convinced. I will not give the 76ers an A+, or even an A. It looks good from a numbers sense, in part because Jrue Holiday really did not play like an all-star last season, and is a bit overrated according to advanced metrics. But Jrue was indeed an all-star, and our leader, and we are indeed trading him for question marks, so I can’t give them an A.

Grade: B+

Flyers Offseason Part 1

Posted: 06/17/2013 by Noah Maltzman in Broad Street Sports, Hockey

On Wednesday, the Flyers made a trade with the New York Islanders. In exchange for a 4th round draft pick in 2014 and a small prospect in Shane Harper, the Flyers received D Mark Streit. However, the team did not really acquire Streit but what they did was acquire his rights.

Streit, 35, will be an unrestricted free agent as soon as free agency begins on July 1st. At that point all teams will be able to contact him about signing and submit contract offers. However, by trading for the former Islanders captain now, the Flyers will be able to talk to Streit immediately and will be able to try to reach an agreement before he gets to speak with other teams.This was a very smart move for the Flyers.

The Flyers are a team that is expected to be buying out some large contracts over the Summer because they are very close to the salary cap and are interested in making a few acquisitions. Even with all of the buyouts, the team will not be able to do everything that they would like to this offseason. However, by being able to negotiate with Streit before other teams can come in and make him a better offer, they are able to save some money and have a much greater chance of landing the veteran defenseman.

Another way that this move was surprisingly very smart for the team is that Streit is a perfect fit for the team and is often overlooked due to his age. Most 35 year olds in the NHL are fatigued but that is not the case with here. Streit has only played 7 seasons in the NHL after spending the early years of his career playing in Europe. This has allowed him to maintain fresh legs and will enable him to continue to play for more years to come. Another advantage of having only played 7 seasons in the NHL is that Streit will be less injury prone. Streit’s fit with the team is great. Most obviously, he is a defenseman and that is a major gaping hole in this roster. They pretty simply needed more all around production from their blueliners. The biggest need this past season was that the team needed their defenseman to start putting up some better offensive statistics. Streit is one of the league’s best point getters year-in-year-out and is among the NHL’s elite defenseman. He has 288 career points and 141 of those coming on the power play during his 491 games played. He may not be a great shut down player but he is very durable, he will show up on the stat sheet, he will help out the power play, and he does bring a great veteran presence  to the team.

If the team can sign Streit and have him help bolster the defensive core, it would be a great move in the right direction for this team. If by some reason they are unable to sign him ,this deal would become a waste of time but it would not be the worst move ever made by this management (Bryzgalov 9 years/$51 million) given that it merely cost a low end prospect and draft pick. However, a deal should get done here given recent statements regarding multiple discussions between the two sides and an eagerness to get a deal done.

The next move for Flyers would be the draft. If all goes as expected, the Flyers should go for the best defenseman available. Speculation has been that the team would take D Darnell Nurse, the nephew of former Eagles QB Donovan McNabb, if he is available. Nurse needs some slight polishing but has a very high ceiling. As much as I hate McNabb, Nurse has very good potential and would be a solid selection. The draft is the one place where I expect the Flyers to make a smart pick. Despite some of the questionable decisions made by the management (once again, Bryzgalov 9 years/$51 million), they have been dubbed by many NHL analysts to currently be the best drafting team in the league.

Also in the near future you can expect to see the contract extensions talks between the team and Claude Giroux to heat up and possibly see a deal get done after the compliance buyouts. Some of the expected compliance buyouts are Ilya Bryzgalov and Danny Briere.

Now you can ask anyone who knows me and they will all tell you that I am one of the most negative people that you will ever meet. However, I am feeling very positive about the direction that the team is taking. All in all, I am very excited about the move to acquire Mark Streit and I think that things are finally beginning to fall into place for the the Flyers. You can never know what to expect out of this team and GM Paul Holmgren but I am hoping that they continue to make more moves like this one.

What do you think about the move to acquire Mark Streit from the Islanders?

This week’s edition of ESPN the Magazine was the annual “Money Edition.” It included a lot of cool facts, and featured ESPN’s exclusive “Surplus Value.” As you might expect, ESPN calculates a player’s “real value” based on performance and subtracts his real salary from that. That number (whether positive or negative) is the Surplus Value. Now, the Mag also did this for each team in the four major sports. Again, as you might expect, ESPN added each team’s total surplus value and divided that by the number of roster spots. Guess which city finished last in Surplus Value Per Player among all cities with all four sports? You guessed it: Philadelphia. Among the 122 teams in the four major sports, the Philly team with the highest SV per player is the Flyers. At number 90. The Flyers (and this is Philly’s best managed team) overpays their players by an average of 620 thousand dollars. In comparison, the number 61 (right in the middle) Dallas Cowboys overpay their players by an average of just 30 thousand dollars. Which team is best managed? The Oklahoma City Thunder, and it isn’t close. OKC underpays its players by an average of 3.7 million dollars a year. Now that’s impressive.

But for us Philly fans, it gets worse than the Flyers. The Eagles check in at #100, and I think that’s being too generous (DRC, Michael Vick, etc. ring a bell?).  The 76ers are in at #105 (we can mostly attribute that to Andrew Bynum’s negative 15.7. Without Bynum, the 76ers would actually be underpaying their players and move into the top 60). And the grand finale, led by Ryan Howard’s atrocious contract, is the Phillies, checking in third to last (ahead of the NBA’s Bobcats and Magic). The Phils are overpaying their players by an average of 3.2 million dollars.

Now we know the bad numbers for each team. How about the city overall? As you might expect, it finishes last among the 13 cities with each of the four major sports. On average, Philly is overpaying its players by $354,728. Miami is the only other city overpaying by more than $80,000. Yes, we are worse than Miami, with the terrible Marlins, Panthers, and Dolphins (okay, maybe the Heat do push them ahead a little bit).
Next time you wonder something like, “How can our teams be so bad when we have so much money to work with?” you’ll know why. It’s because we have the worst management in the country.

Earlier today, Mike Vick, Quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, signed a 1 year deal with the team. This deal is set to replace Vick’s previous one, a 6 year contract that the Eagles and Vick agreed to back in 2011 that would pay the veteran QB $100 million. However, this new contract is far more reasonable, paying Vick up to $10 million for this single season and then sending him off to Free Agency. It may not be a fair contract in the sense that Vick should not be making that much money based on his skill-set. On the other hand, it is somewhat reasonable because of the absurdity of his previous deal and the fact that he was at least willing to compromise with the team and restructure the deal. I consider it a win for this team for a handful of reasons. First off, Vick was hesitant about renegotiating the contract at first but eventually decided to go for the idea. When the Eagles made the announcement that they weren’t going to cut Vick, one major concern was the money that was owed. By lowering the price tag on keeping him and the length of the deal, it makes the whole situation a lot easier to swallow. Chip Kelly’s system is another reason that keeping Vick for now is a good plan. Vick is typically the type of QB that could work well in Kelly’s system. There are many questions regarding the ability of Kelly’s system in an NFL setting rather than in college and with that comes the need for options. If Kelly does run Vick as the primary starter and it doesn’t succeed, then the contract is only for one season and the Eagles can get rid of him. However, Vick could turn out to thrive in Kelly’s game plan and then they have something going with him and can potentially resign him if they wanted. The main key to signing Vick is that no one knows how Kelly’s offense will work in the NFL and who it could work with. By signing Vick to a shortened deal, it gives the team flexibility and options at QB with Vick and Foles, along with the potential free agent or draft pick.