Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Before I dive head first into the shit storm that the Philadelphia Eagles have become, I’d like to give you a background of my previous opinions of each QB.
Kevin Kolb- I’ve never been a Kolb fan. I watched him very closely in training camp over the past few years and never came away impressed. He always held onto the ball for frustratingly long periods of time and would get sacked. He didn’t seem to be developing. In fact, I was one of many who had serious questions about why Kolb was drafted so high. I have a theory now as to why. Ever heard of the Lewin Career Forecast? Neither had I until around 2 years ago. A man named David Lewin wanted to predict what college QBs would succeed in the NFL so he did a regression analysis and tried to find common statistical threads that all good NFL QBs shared. What he found was this: assuming the player has the Physical tools needed to succeed at an NFL level (this clause eliminates the Ty Detmers and Timmy Changs of the world) the two numbers most indicative of a QB's future success are his completion percentages and the number of games he started in college. Kevin Kolb is a Lewin Forecast dream. While this system is certainly imperfect and needs more development, my guess is that the Eagles (who are one of the teams at the football sabermetrics forefront) caught wind of this theory early on and took a shot in the dark with it. It's okay guys, my fourth grade science fair project didn't go too well either.
Mike Vick- While I have serious doubts about Vick’s ability to lead a team to football’s ultimate goal, I’ve always been in awe of his game. I have a soft spot for QBs who can run which is why I like watching Navy football and will watch Denard Robinson every Saturday even though I don’t really like college football. I have a Vick Falcons jersey (the white one from his rookie year). I’m mesmerized by the types of physicals gifts that I can’t come close to replicating, which is the same reason I love Stromile Swift even though he sucks. Also, it should go without saying that, as a future puppy owner, I was appalled by the dog fighting incident. I won’t forget what Vick did to those poor pooches, but I have forgiven him. Now, to the meaty part.
Even as this insanity started to brew and we all began to anticipate a QB controversy, I was against anyone but Kevin Kolb starting for this team. For the purposes of giving you a subjective and logical perspective on this issue, I decided to throw out everything I had previously believed, take a step back and start from scratch. Here is what my thoughts are:
Why Kolb Should be Starting
Return on Investment
The Eagles invested a high second round pick in Kolb four years ago. Not only that, but they signed him to a 2 year extension that runs through next season (assuming that football is played next year which I doubt) with a $10 million signing bonus attached to it. This kind of investment is not something you give up on after 10 passes. You can’t draw conclusions about anything in such a short amount of time. Would you leave a movie after a shitty first 10 minutes? No. You have $11 invested in it and you’re going to give it a chance. The Eagles have $12 million and a high pick invested in Kolb. They should see what they have.
Winning Now vs. Winning the Big One
Vick has never had a completion % above 56% even in college. That isn’t how you win in today’s NFL. Even if Vick is better right now, he’s not going to take you to a Super Bowl. He’s far to mistake prone and sackable. That’s right, sackable. Vick has been sacked 9 times already this season in just about 60 dropbacks. That’s a sack every 6 passes and that is BAD. He’s been sacked like this throughout his entire career. Barring some sort of freak maturation and development that occurred when Vick was in jail, Vick is not a championship QB.
Vick is 30 years old. NFL QBs begin to see a dip in play at age 32. The average Eagles player age is 26. By the time the rest of the Eagles reach the apex level of their performance (between ages 28 and 30) Vick will already be 2 years into his physical decline. Also, keep in mind that Vick’s most valuable attributes, speed and arm strength, are not the kind of skills that age well. He doesn’t possess attributes that persevere despite advanced age like some 6’6” QB who’s velocity is generated naturally by a huge frame nor is he surgically accurate nor particularly savvy (a nice way of me saying “smart”). By the time the rest of the Eagles are ready to seriously compete, Vick will be an NFL geriatric.
Why Vick should start
You’re going to find that several of these are not related to things that occur on the field. That’s a big time red flag.
We don’t see Kevin Kolb every day at practice. It is possible he sucks and the Eagles know it. They want Vick to make us forget all that has been done to prepare for the Kevin Kolb era so the failed experiment is a relative afterthought.
The Locker Room theory
Vick has always had the undying loyalty of his teammates, wherever he has gone. I anticipate that the same is true here in Philly. It is possible Reid is giving Vick the go ahead because he would otherwise lose the locker room. When coaches lose control of the locker room things can get VERY ugly. Reid could just be looking for Vick to stumble so he can justify putting Kolb back in. Since the Eagles weren’t likely to compete for a Super Bowl this year anyway, Reid can afford to do this.
Fat Guys Theory
The offensive line has been…well….offensive. Jason Peters has shown almost as much apathy as Stacy Andrew did before he was traded but is far too talented to cut (they also traded a first round pick for him). This combined with injuries and the lack of continuity that comes from injuries (studies show a direct relationship between O-line success and the amount of time they play together) have made the line a liability. Kolb may get slaughtered a la David Carr and develop bad habits as a result of self defense. Andy Reid could be protecting him from that by starting Vick.
Attention Whore Theory
People have accused the Eagles of being…um….sensitive to the fact that the Phillies have become the darlings of Philadelphia. The conspiracy theorists were up in arms when Donovan McNabb was traded just before opening day of the baseball season, upstaging Roy Halladay’s debut. One could argue that orders to play Vick were sent down from Jeffery Lurie on high in order to keep the team on the back page of the Daily News.
Other things that are interesting about the situation:
Is Donovan glad he was shipped out of the asylum?
Does anyone else find it strange that they told everyone Vick was starting by sending out a text message to the media? I met the PR guy for the Eagles and he didn’t seem THAT dumb.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Up to this year, Cole Hamels had been a three-pitch pitcher, featuring a fastball with average velocity and good arm side run, a filthy changeup and a show-me curveball. His repertoire was consistently based around 60 percent fastballs, 30 percent changeups and 10 percent curves. This year, he has reduced the usage of all three of those pitches in order to accommodate a new weapon, the cutter, which he throws 15 percent of the time.
Compared to his more traditional fastball, his cutter moves in on right-handed batters (and, naturally, cuts away from left-handed batters). As a result, he tends to throw it further inside to righties than his fastball. Check it out:
You can see Cole uses the fastball to one side of the plate and the cutter to the other.
Hamels' best pitch is still his changeup, but the cutter gives him another weapon he can throw for strikes early in counts. The new pitch allows him to get ahead of hitters more often and sets up his dynamic changeup for more two-strike counts. The spike in his strikeout rate (from 7.89 K/9 last year to 9.29 this year) can't be entirely attributed to the addition of the cut fastball, but it has almost certainly played a role in how he's developed.
If you're wondering how he picked it up so quickly, just look around at his teammates. The Phillies lead the league in percentage of cutters thrown -- 16.4 percent -- by a huge margin. The cutter has become a big pitch for starters who need another weapon to make up for average velocity. Hamels was good with his old pitch mix, but the addition of the cutter has made him a high end #2 starter on a World Series contender.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Sorry the blog has been on a hiatus of late. I'm back at school and busy. I had a chance to see a lot of high quality video from one of Lakewood's recent playoff games and finally can assess a few of their guys. Here's my take:
Jon Singleton- Singleton was being talked about constantly during the first couple months of the year when he hit over .400 with a slugging percentage near .700. Of course, those type of numbers are unsustainable and his performance has since come back down to Earth. Singleton is physically well-developed already at 6-foot-2 and a listed weight of 215 -- although I'd guess he's a little bigger than that -- and only turns 19 tomorrow. He has a nice swing with fast hands and excellent hip rotation which is a tell tale sign of future power. He tends to hit a little too much off his front foot -- he can end up with his weight completely off his back side, especially on changeups -- but he gets great extension through the zone.
While it is apparent the physical tools are there, Singleton didn't yield good results when I saw him. My guess is he's tired from the rigors of his first season of pro baseball after playing in high school schedules and exhaustion has set in. Evidence of this was his tendecy to be late on crappy, high 80s fastballs that I expected him to crush and his struggle to adjust to anything offspeed.
Brody Colvin- A classic example of a young, high-upside arm, Colvin has big velocity with below average command and control. Colvin's fastball ranges from 91-95 and loses about 2 mph when he works from the stretch. His delivery is fairly deceptive. He was more confident in his 83-84 mph changeup, which had a lot of late downward action, than his 77-79 mph slider, which had some tilt but was less consistent and occasionally flattened out. Colvin cuts himself off in his delivery and didn't command anything as well to his glove side as he did to his arm side. The raw material is there for a No. 2 starter who brings two or three above-average pitches, and at the very least he'll end up being a nice bullpen weapon.
Julio Rodriguez-Who? I had no idea who this guy was until I saw him and now I want to see more. The fact he hasn't been on my radar is inexcusable. He struck out 90 men this year for the Blueclaws in 55 innings (that's not a typo). Rodriguez didn't show a real knockout pitch and his fastball only touches 91, sitting mostly 86-89 irange. He mixes four pitches very effectively, showing good two-plane break on a slow curve and hard tilt on a slider, with a changeup that just lets hitters know he has one and is not a real weapon. Rodriguez's arm action is loose and easy, and he works quickly, keeping hitters off balance. If he can hold that velocity as a starter, he has the body and repertoire to become a legitimate, innings eating starter prospect, even though I think the crazy strikeout rate this year wasn't indicative of his raw stuff.
Anthony Hewitt- Now in right field after being drafted as a shortstop and then being moved to third base where he was terrible, Hewitt is a lost cause. Breaking balls, fastballs up, changeups -- he can swing and miss with the best of them.
Sebastian Valle- struck out three times in four ABs with a walk, although his at bats were mostly sound and he had a few good takes and showed he could foul off a lot of pitches he couldn't hit fairly below the zone. His stride at the plate is very short, but he's got good hands and uses his lower half well, which is why he's showing power already even though he's still pretty slight. He's a work in progress behind the plate but has arm strength and showed soft enough hands that he projects well defensively.