Monday, August 30, 2010

We are now 2/3 of the way through the year. I thought it would be a good time to check out the 2010 predictions I made at the beginning of the year. It will give me motivation for the last 1/3 of the year, and, I'm really blocking on quality writing ideas.

In the year 2010.....
-the Milwaukee Brewers will make the playoffs (starting out bold) Gosh I am stupid. If this prediction makes you stop reading, I totally understand.
- the Lost finale with disappoint (staying bold) Hmm, I think I am correct here. The last episode wasn't bad, actually pretty entertaining, but the last season was weak. And the last 10 minutes kind of lame.
- Brandon Jennings will not be Rookie of the Year I got one right.
- Everton will not win any trophies Yes, some bold predictions.
- Wisconsin Badgers basketball will win either the Big 10 regular season or Big 10 tournament Arggh, I thought this one would be on the mark. I think they ended a game out.
- Wisconsin Football will make a BSC Bowl When Wisconsin has expectations, they seem to fall well short. When they don't, they usually do well.
- The Republican Party will gain lots of seats in the House but only 2 seats in the Senate We'll see
- The Olympics will be somewhat interesting Hockey was fun.
- Tron, Robin Hood, Priest, and Toy Story 3 will be tight I really don't know why picked this films. I haven't seen any of them.
- The A-Team, The Karate Kid, and Little Fockers will suck probably correct
- I will begin writing the Great American Graphic Novel In they year 2011....
- I will go on a date Shit, I still got 4 months left, right?
- I will get a real job or get into a great masters program Damnit! The latter will not happen. Better get myself in gear.
- I will get into great shape Wow, wrong again. Nostradamus I am not.
- I will be on Survivor Ok, they're not taking applications, but I should send one in anyways. Let's put that one on 2011 docket as well.
- The US will make the Quarterfinals of the World Cup Should have
- Three celebrities that might die - Lil Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Winona Ryder Hey, we still got 4 months left. Get off my back!
- chances of me leaving Milwaukee 45% Still here, but chances of living are rising
- purple will be the hot fashion color told you
- Alicia Keys will still be super hot indeed

Thursday, August 19, 2010

EPL Fantasy Draft Review

Time for another fantasy English Premier League fantasy season. This is the fourth year my friends and I are running our own league. This year we are up to 12 teams, one more than last year, with a few dropping out and a few new additions, or promotions and relegations as we like to call them. We do our own league because there is not a draft based EPL fantasy league out there. Everything is based on salary cap. We do a draft. That makes it more fun, more entertaining, more cut throat, and more fragile. Every pick counts. The scoring is pretty simple with goals, assists, clean sheets, and team of the week getting points, and red cards own goals, and goals against getting negative points.

What sets the EPL fantasy draft apart from other fantasy leagues is the high level of uncertainty. Players are constantly moving between European Leagues. It’s possible that one of your top picks could not be in the Premier League in a few weeks time. Just imagine if you drafted Greg Jennings and he only played one game with the Packers before moving to the CFL. There is also a high amount of uncertainty among starting lineups. There are only a few defenders for the top teams that you can be sure will start every game. And unlike the NBA and NFL, for the most part, you do not want players from bad teams. Because scoring is so scarce and bad teams give up lots of goals, there are not players like Stephen Curry or Andre Johnson out there.
Ok, let’s get to the draft.

Round 1

1. Wayne Rooney – Striker – Man United – I had the privilege of drawing the number one pick. I was deciding between Rooney and Drogba, but went with Rooney because I feel even in a down season, he’ll still score 15 goals. Drogba could get 35, but he could also get 7. Rooney was the safer pick.
2. Cesc Fabregas – Midfielder – Arsenal - This manager is a super Arsenal fan and refuses to take players from Tottenham, Chelsea, Man U, Liverpool, or Man City. Obviously, he is handcuffed, but Fabregas is definitely a top 5 pick. Speculation of a move to Barcelona has ended, so he should perform this season.
3. Didier Drogba – Striker – Chelsea - Definitely the right pick here. His hat trick in the opening weekend has already proven that.
4. Frank Lampard – Mid – Chelsea- Due to being his fantasy team captain last season, Lampard was the league’s leading point getter. He has performed at a very high level all four years of this league, and there is no reason he should stop now.
5. Steven Gerrard – Mid – Liverpool – Gerrard was last year’s #1 pick, but injuries kept him from reclaiming that honor again. He will get points and will probably be in the fantasy team of the year. The only question mark is how Liverpool will play this season.
6. Robin Van Persie – Striker – Arsenal – Van Persie is one of the best goal scorers, when he plays. He seems to be injured a lot, so this pick has a bit of a risk.
7. Carlos Tevez – Last year’s third leading scorer after Drogba and Rooney, there was a little uncertainty if Tevez would stay at Man City, but now, he seems the only City striker who will get the start virtually every week.
8. Fernando Torres – Striker – Liverpool – Injuries are a concern, but Torres is dynamic when he plays.
9. Nicolas Anelka – Striker – Liverpool – I’d say the top 8 picks are pretty cut and dry – all are clearly in the top 10 and would only move up or down a few picks, but after that 8, things are a bit less transparent. There are a lot of good players, but as you’ll see by the next picks, not of the caliber of the first 8. I see Anelka as a player on the way down, so I would not like him at #9.
10. Andrei Arshavin – Mid – Arsenal – Probably the midfielder with the best upside remaining in the draft, but tailed off last year after an amazing first 4 months in the league.
11. John Terry – Defender – Chelsea – Probably not the player you foresee taking with your first pick, but pretty safe as the Champions will get lots of clean sheets and Terry will start every game despite his World Cup woes.
12. Antonio Valencia – Mid – Man U – This is probably the first pick I truly question. Valencia is a great player, but not a huge goal scorer. I think better midfielders were available.

Round 2
13. Petr Cech – Goalkeeper – Chelsea - Getting the best goalkeeper available is a good move, not sure if he is 13th pick worthy, maybe a bit safer than the last pick.
14. David Silva – Mid – Man City – A big risk here. City has loads of midfielders and Silva is unproven in the EPL, but it could be a stroke of genius before the end of the season.
15. Patrice Evra – Def – Man U – Of the big four, Man U and Chelsea are your surest bets for cleansheets. And on those two teams, there are probably only 4 defenders you can be certain will start every week. Evra is one of those.
16. Florent Malouda – Mid – Chelsea – For my opinion, better than Valencia and Silva. He seems to score goals every season and still be underrated.
17. Glen Johnson – Def – Liverpool – A great attacking defender. He will chip in some goals and assists, but will Liverpool’s defense consistently produce the clean sheets like years past?
18. Darren Bent – Striker – Sunderland – Streaky striker. I like the pick, but I’m not sure if he can match last year’s form, especially at Sunderland, especially without his strike partner Kenwyne Jones.
19. Joe Cole – Mid – Liverpool – A bit high at 19. I don’t recall Joe Call having a strong fantasy season in the four years of this league. Too many injuries. Maybe the new club will help.
20.Thomas Vermaelen – Def – Arsenal – Surprised to see Vermaelen, last year’s top scoring defender fall this far. He scores goals. He defends very well. Arsene Wenger has an eye for talent. Maybe people are not convinced about Arsenal.
21. Pepa Reina – Goalie – Liverpool – Not much about this pick, right place I guess.
22. Aaron Lennon – Mid – Tottenham – Has the potential to be one of the best fantasy midfielders in the league. Seems a little high, but maybe not at the rate midfielders are going.
23. Marouane Chamakh – Striker – Arsenal – I think Chamakh will be a very important player for Arsenal. Look for him to pair well with Van Persie, but I’m not sure that necessarily means fantasy success.
24. Ashley Cole – Def – Chelsea – I was thrilled to get Ashley Cole with the 24th pick. I see him as a scoring, assisting, cleansheet producing defender, definitely a first round talent.

Alright, I won’t bore you with all 17 rounds. Instead, check out my stellar team.
1. (1.) Rooney
2. (24.) Ashley Cole
3. (25.) Edwin Van der Sar – Goalie’s were going fast, and I think Van der Sar was the best bet only the board, especially already having a first choice striker.
4. (48.) Rio Ferdinand – Injury problems and getting old, but I still consider it a steal at 48.
5. (49.) Theo Walcott – Attacking midfielders on good teams are always a good bet. Walcott did not really perform last year, but I’m looking for him to find his best form this year.
6. (72.) John Carew – Good value for your second striker
7. Phil Jagielka – Strong defender, now playing for England. Everton should be good value in round 7.
8. (96.) Niko Kranjcar – With only one midfielder, needed proven goalscoring. Not flashy and not certain to start, but I’ll stand by it.
9. Johann Djourou – Def – Arsenal – If this guy starts even just half the games, this is a steal, but with injury issues, it might be a waste.
10. (120.) Stephen Ireland
11. Shaun Wright-Philips
– This was a tandem pick here. I figured one would stay at City and fight for a spot and the other would go to Villa and take the place of Milner. Good picks. Best case scenario, both leave City
12. (144.) Sylvain Distin – Its possible Distin will be on the bench, but I again see Heitinga playing a number of different positions and Jagielka and Distin teaming up in the middle with Yobo the odd man out.
13. Joe Hart – This was kind of a defensive pick here. I know that a few people still had not picked a goalie and I know Hart had a chance of starting at City. If he didn’t he could go to Arsenal, Sunderland, or Fulham, which are not bad alternatives. I won this round.
14. Robert Huth – Stoke defender
15. Steven Nzonzi – a bit of a reach for the young Blackburn midfielder. I saw him score a tight goal against Everton, so I see a bright future.
16. Mesut Ozil – Not really a gamble, no down side, but no upside in the end. Real Madrid?
17. David Moyes – This year we are experimenting with taking managers. I don’t think it will have much effect, but either way, got to go with Everton.

I like me team. This is the most confident I’ve felt after a draft. Late round pieces like Hart and Ireland will make those early round picks even better. I could be derailed by injuries and poor form by Rooney. Other than that, I’m feeling good.

Here are some other draft hits:
Mikel Arteta – 5th pick in the 4th round – 6 goals and 2 assists in 13 EPL games last season
Maruone Fellaini – Another Everton player returning from injury, good value in the late 8th round
Milan Jovanovic – Attacking midfielder on a good team in the 9th round – steal
Johnny Evans – Another 9th round steal, will start a lot for Vidic and Ferdinand
Stephen Pienaar – Ok, I rate Everton players, but you can’t complain with Pienaar in the 10th round
Ryan Shawcross – Stoke defender in the 14th round, scored some nice goals last year and broke someone’s leg
Scott Parker – Good midfielding option in the 15th round
Luke Young – 16th round – should get some starts with Villa’s injury problems
Verdun Corluka – 11th round, nice

Some not so clever picks:
Yossi Beneyoun – Too high in the 5th round. Won’t start. Other players drafted around him much more valuable – Milner, Modric, Cuellar, Dunne, Downing, Saha
Zhirkov- 5th round. Ouch! Manager thought he was classified as a defender. Not a good pick either way.
Maxi Rodriguez – 8th round. 19th appearances with Liverpool. 1 goal.
Jonas Gutierrez – 8th round. Interesting choice.
Daniel Sturridge – 9th round. Probably would have been available in the 19th round
Charles N’Zogbia – 6th round, high even if he does stay in England

Teams – I think Rory did well for a newcomer. Usually there is a tough learning curve for new players. With picks like Evra in the 2nd, Berbatov in the 4th and Downing in the 5th, he seems to know what he is doing.
I expect the veterans Worth and Dustin to again challenge at the top, maybe more due to their transfer prowess than their drafts. For Dustin, I don’t expect Dunne and Gomes to have as good a season as last.
BJ – too reliant on Arsenal. Big surprise.
Junkie – a strong start with Gerrard, Vermaelen, Vidic, and Milner. Not sure if his depth will hold up.
Andy – a mixed bag, no big four defenders will give him inconsistent weeks.
Jerry – newcomer showed his naivety with some picks, but Drogba should help out.
Carlo – If Adebayor and Boateng play well for City, he has a chance to challenge for midtable, if not, he’ll be wishing Jesse were still in the league.
Serg – wishing Jesse were still in the league. Good thing he transferred for Balotelli
Raubert – Similar to Junkie, strong beginning to draft, may have what it takes to challenge the leaders
Bryan – I predict another season of languishing in the bottom half of the table.

A few random notes:

BJ has 7 Arsenal players
By the end of the week, Serg probably will have drafted 3 players who are not in the league
11 of Serg’s players have Italian managers
Bryan love Cahill’s, having both Tim and Gary, I believe Trevor is open for the Oakland A’s
Carlo has Paulo Ferreira and Pablo Barrera
Gomes, undrafted last season, 4th round this season
Bridge 7th round last year, 16th round this year
Robinho 1st round last year, 14th round this year

There you go, mostly random thoughts. Thanks for putting up with my over confidence and ribbing. I will own this league.

Friday, August 13, 2010

English Premier League Preview

Tomorrow is the start of another English Premier League Season. Exciting. I now know what I will be doing most Saturday mornings. This year due to the World Cup, we did not have much of an off season, but I am excited nevertheless. Last year my picks were pretty good, picking Chelsea to win, Tottenham and Man City to challenge for a Champion's League spot (but I predicted it at the expense of Arsenal, not Liverpool), and picking two of the three relegated teams.
Here are my predictions for an exciting season.

I believe things at the top are the most exciting they have been in years. In years past you really only had two or three times that could legitimately challenge for the title. This year, I think there are 5 - Chelsea, Man U, Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool. And then you have the second tier of teams that could finish in the top 4 and will consistently challenge the big boys - Tottenham, Everton, Aston Villa.
After that top 8, though, there is a large drop off.
You have your comfortable midtable teams - Fulham, Stoke, Birmingham
And them pretty much everyone else is in the relegation battle.

1. Manchester United - I'm really sure why, but I'm not feeling like Chelsea will win it again. Terry is getting old. Lampard cannot repeat his performance of last season. Man United hasn't really added too much, but they always seem to be having lots of young players coming up at all times. Look for Berbatov to finally tally some goals in Man U shirt. I think it comes down to depth, though. Man U has much more than Chelsea. Look at defense - Vidic, Evra, Ferdinand, Evans, Smailling, Raphael, Fabio, Wes Brown, Gary Neville. These are all competent defenders. And the midfield is much of the same.

Player to Watch - Chicharito

2. Chelsea - Took take the title again. Drogba coming back from injury, Anelka getting old, Terry getting old. Chelsea will need a few more additions to fully stake the claim as favorites.

Player to Watch - Solomon Kalou - I'm thinking Drogba or Anelka get injured.

3. Arsenal - One of the few top teams to really better themselves in the offseason. Van Persie will be mostly healthy to start the season. Chamakh provides a reliable 2nd striker. Fabregas did not leave. Gallas, Campbell, and Silveste left. There is a little uncertainty in the central defense, and a lack of a true defensive midfielder, but look to Arsenal to play their normal brand of exciting football - scoring lots, losing the occasional game to a bad team, losing to the best teams, playing well in Europe.

Player to Watch - Nasri - I'm feeling a breakout season for the Frenchman Nasri.

4. Manchester City - Lots of money, lots of players. A few more additions in the weeks to come. Uncertainty among who will actually play, they have so many players. It's kind of ridiculous. Two great keepers, loads of midfielders, strikers for days. I see talent only getting them so far. They will not gel until the end of the season.

Player to watch -Adam Johnson, one of the few unproven players at City.

5. Everton - Might be a bit of a homer pick here, but Everton has their strongest side in years. They have depth and competition for places. Look for breakout seasons for Jagielka and Arteta. Hopefully Everton can consistently beat the lower level competition and keep up the high level of play against the top teams. The lack of European football will actually help them. Look for a FA Cup or Carling Cup final as well as a strong league finish.

Player to Watch - Jack Rodwell - future England star.

6. Liverpool - They have the quality and are bringing in good players, but I don't think their defense is where it was a few years ago. Torres has had lots of injury problems. Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovic are good additions, but I think Liverpool are on the way down.

Player to Watch - Jovanovic - Young attacking talent, scored against Germany in the World Cup

7. Tottenham - Champions League will have an adverse effect on Tottenham. They'll be a bit stretched and will not be able to recreate the form of last year. They are a quality team, but not top 4 material.

Player to Watch - Michael Dawson - young(ish) defender, played great last year. Look for him to get better and be the only real rock on that defense.

8. Aston Villa - Loss of coach a week before the season. Their best player will soon be leaving. Things are going downhill fast for Villa. Lucky for them the teams below them are not really strong.

Player to Watch - Stuart Downing - Was a great young English player, but missed much of last season with an injury. He will have to step up with the impending loss of Milner.

9. Fulham - Nothing really excites me about Fulham. Last year the made it to the UEFA Cup final. Wild. I don't think they have a strong enough midfield to really challenge the big boys.

Player to Watch - Andy Johnson - Missed much of last season with injury. Can he return to his Crystal Palace/early Everton form? If so, Zamora and Johnson will be a dangerous combination.

10. Stoke City - Stoke are one of the few teams on the rise. The addition of Kenwyne Jones definitely signals this. Stoke know the brand of football they play, and in England, in the current EPL, it really works (at least against the bottom half of the table.)

Player to Watch: K. Jones

11. Blackburn - Much like Stoke, Blackburn play hard, physical football. Blackburn lack the quality strikers that Stoke have, but hard nosed midfield and defense will have them be a clear mid table team.

Player to Watch - Steven Nzonzi - Young midfield prospect, scored a cracking goal against Everton, so that's how I know him.

12. West Ham - Not too much to get excited for in Avrem Grant's West Ham. Charlton Cole is a quality striker and Scott Parker runs things well in the midfield. Defensive and consistent scoring are suspect.

Player to Watch: Barera

13. Bolton - Another industrious, physical, unimpressive on paper side. Kevin Davies epitomizes this team. They often times give teams like Liverpool and Arsenal problems, yet lose to Hull the next week.

Player to Watch - Matt Taylor - flair for great goals

14. Birmingham - I don't see Birmingham following up on their success from last year. They just don't have enough quality players and some of their best performers from last season are getting old.

Player to watch: Cameron Jerome

15. Newcastle - Back in the top league. I think they will struggle, but ultimately be safe. They want to be a big club again, but that will have to wait a few years while the maintain secure Premier League footing. Oh, and their players don't have the look of a big club, except the Big Sol Campbell.

Player to Watch - Andy Carroll - Exciting young striker, great in the air. Switching from number 39 to 9, though.

16. Sunderland - Some people are tauting Sunderland to challenge for the top 10. I see them barely avoiding relegation. They do have Darren Bent and young talent like Cattermole and Frazier Campbell, but their defense does not measure up and look for their offense, much like their striker Bent, to be dreadfully inconsistent.

Player to Watch: Frazier Campbell - will get lots of chances with Jones moving on.

17. West Brom - West Brom is the ultimate "yo-yo" club, but I think their EPL experience will help them hang on for another year.

Player to watch: Chris Brunt

18. Wigan - I have picked Wigan to go down for about 4 straight years now. I feel this will finally be the year. Rodallega cannot possible have a year like last year and their best midfielder N'Zogbia will be leaving.

Player to Watch: Alcarez

19. Wolves - Lots of bad teams around the league this year.

20. Blackpool - They have about 17 total players.

Player to Watch: Charlie Adam.

There you go. Enjoy the start of the season.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Champions! or maybe not

The World Cup and the potential for a strong USA run got me thinking about the likelihood that teams I support win a championship. I've chronicled in my Wisconsin Sports Woes entry about the torture that we often endure being a Wisconsin sports fan. In my life time, we've had a grand total of one true championship. I'm not counting division or conference or bowl wins here, I'm talking about a bonafide World or National Championship.
My thinking got me a bit sad, as the likelihood of an oncoming plethora of championships looks pretty bleak. Anyways, I've decided to take a closer look at my teams prospects of winning a championship.

1. Packers - The Packers are obviously number one, the far frontrunner of most likely to win a championship in my lifetime. They could win next year. They could win 3 times in the next five years. They have a great QB, an awesome receiving corps, and a strong young (for the most part) defense. But, even with greats like Favre and White, the Pack only won 1 Superbowl. The playoffs are tough, and the best team does not always end up champion.
Last Championship: 1997
Odds of winning a Championship in my lifetime: 97%

2. Bucks - I don't want you thinking I am on the Bucks bandwagon here. I don't think they have a team that can really compete with the best right now. It's just that basketball in many ways is a fickle game. Things change greatly from year to year. You only have 5 players on the court at a time. A few strong draft picks can totally change your fortunes. Look at the Spurs. They are a similar market to Bucks. They don't have tons of money, but a few draft picks, a strong coach, and a couple great foreigners have totally turned their franchise around.
What might be going against the Bucks, though, is that in the NBA, you truly have to be the best team. No "hot now" or "peaking at the right time" team will win 4-straight 7-game series.
Last Championship: 1971
Odds of Winning a Championship in my lifetime: 8%

3. Wisconsin Football - This one might surprise people. Winning a college football National Championship is hard, but I think the Badgers have all the right ingredients, and in the perfect storm, they could win it all. What are these ingredients you ask? A relatively strong program, killer home field advantage, play in a strong BCS conference, play an increasingly unique brand of football. Call me crazy, but I think they can do it. If the Badgers, as a Big 10 team go undefeated, there is no way the BCS can keep them out of the national championship game. They could do this if they build a strong team and play the right teams at Camp Randall. Get to the National Championship game, and they play a brand of football that the likes of Florida and Texas and teams like that are not used to playing. Just look at the Miami game last year. Again, maybe I am dreaming, but in the right circumstances, I like it.
Last Championship: Never
Odds of Winning a Championship in my lifetime: 3%

4. US Soccer - Team USA is what got my thinking about this list. Most agree the US is getting better at soccer, with the great draw and a potential for a break out tournament, you start dreaming. The problem is, the World Cup is only every 4 years. If it was every year, the US would be ahead of the Badgers and the Bucks, but the World Cup is tough. Spain, who were the favorites going in had to beat Chile, Paraguay, Portugal, Germany, and the Netherlands. Tough stuff. The USA will continue to improve, but will that be enough to be genuine contenders?
Last Championship: Never
Odds of Winning a Championship in my Lifetime: 2%

5. Wisconsin Basketball - The Badgers are a great program, but I don't think they are good enough to win it all. Bo Ryan is a great regular season coach, developing players, getting the most out of his team, but they are just not good enough in the post-season. Their flaws show clearly. With their style of play, they will always be good or very good, but never great. In college basketball, you need freak athletes. You need blue-chippers. Wisconsin just does not get them.
Last Championship: 1941
Odds of Winning a Championship in my lifetime: 1%

6. Everton - For Everton, I only consider the Premier League Title or Champions League title a true championship. The League Cup or FA Cup, though greatly desired, does not really count in these terms. Everton are a good team, but everything in football is currently going against them. There is more money, more foreign investment, more foreign players and Everton cannot compete. The can field a strong side, but the best players will leave to get more money and more opportunities. Since 1995, only 3 teams have won the Premier League. That is a pretty wild stat. To compete Everton need a new stadium and new investors, but even that, does not guarantee success.
Last Championship: 1987
Odds of Winning in my lifetime: Less that 1%

7. Brewers - Baseball. It's unfair. A few teams prey on the rest. Remember when we waited 26 years to make the playoffs and then lost in the first round? We were so thrilled just to make it there. Yes, then did nothing the next two years, and much of the success the playoff year was due to a free agent here half the year. Do you think the Rays won't begin shipping off players after this year? If you don't, you are incorrect. Plus Milwaukee is no Tampa. Maybe I've just been jaded by years of disappointment, but I don't think the Brewers stand a chance.
Last Championship: Never
Odds of winning in my lifetime: much less than 1%

Maybe I have unrealistic expectations, but even these 2 or 3 championships in my lifetime will be much more fulfilling than being a Lakers or Yankees fan.