Sunday, September 16, 2012

Eric Previews an Eagles opponent: Baltimore Ravens

Since there's no more minor league baseball to go scout I figured I'd satisfy my craving for writing by previewing Eagles games and shit. It's not going to be beautifully written and I'm not going to try be a fortune teller week to week, I just want to present some matter-of-fact stuff (mostly via Football Outsiders) that you would wanna know while you watch the game.  Let's talk about the Ravens.

General Offensive stuff:

Baltimore's offensive formula isn't hard to decipher. Hand the ball to Ray Rice, throw bombs and dump the ball off to Ray Rice when the deep routes aren't open.  That's mostly it.  It makes sense when you realize that Ray Rice is one of the league's most valuable players, Joe Flacco has the howitzer to chuck it down field and Torrey Smith is one of the NFL's fastest wideouts.  The problems with this offense are that it often lacks rhythm and Flacco is statuesque so he needs the O-line to block well to give deep routes time to develop since he's not creating time for himself.  The Ravens generally suck against standard nickel pakages and thrive against vanilla 3-3-5 nickel looks.  The Eagles don't have the true nose guard to play a 3-3-5 so don't sweat that.

The Ravens are one of the few NFL teams to still use a true fullback, Vonta Leach, and he plays a lot. Last year the Ravens ranked last in the NFL single back looks.  It follows then that they ranked 30th in 3-wide receiver sets. You're gonna see a lot of 2RB 1TE 2 WR looks today.

Individual Offensive stuff:

Joe Flacco: Joe throw ball far. Flacco threw 78 passes last year that traveled 20+ yards (third in NFL) and drew 5 more pass interference penalties to go with it.

Ray Rice: Rice rushed 290 times last year, about 240 of those coming with a fullback in front of him.  of the 90 passes Rice caught in 2011, 60 of them were as checkdowns. He is the Ravens' bellcow.  He's had 200+ carries and 60+ catches for 3 straight years.  The only other gys to do that? Marshall Faulk, Priest Holmes, Roger Craig and Marcus Allen.  He's a very special player.

Anquan Boldin: Awesome career is starting to wind down.

Torrey Smith: Look for Smith to be targeted off of play action. 22% of his targets last year were off play action, as were 3 of his 7 TDs.

Offensive Line: Left tackle Michael Oher is freakishly talented but doesn't pick up blitzes well.  No more Ben Grubbs at guard is a big loss for Baltimore.

General Defensive Stuff:

This was the best defense in the league last year.  They've lost Terrell Suggs who, despite the presence of Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata and Ed Reed, is the best player on the squad.  Suggs had 14 sacks and 2 INTs last season but also pressured the opposing QB 39 other times last year.  Those pressures led to 3 INTs, 2 fumbles, an intentional grounding penalty and several holding penalties.  He's a monster but he's not playing.  The Ravens rush five guys almost 30% of the time, fifth most in football last year.

Baltimore only got pressure on Andy Dalton 8 times last week.  If they can get to Vick (after his 35 yard completion last week, Vick was 0-18 on passes under pressure) this game is going to be a disaster.   Last week the Eagles had trouble with defensive backs blitzing and struggled to communicate on stunts.  Danny Watkins sucks. No more Jason Peters.  Evan Mathis is just okay.  It could be a problem.

Okay that seems pretty good.  Go football.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

MLB Prospect Scouting Report: Trevor May (Phillies)

Scouting Phillies righty, Trevor May, this year has not been easy. A whiff inducing howitzer one start, a frustrating, homer prone mess the next, May entered the 2012 season as the Phillies' consensus #1 prospect and leaves it having taken an enigmatic step backwards. It's not an insurmountable retardation of the Washingtonian's development, especially when you remind yourself that May only realistically projected as a mid-rotation starter anyway. Of course, a full page write-up and action shot in Baseball America's annual handbook will often alter the layperson's perception of a player, no matter how uninspiring a system for which he is the masthead.  There was more hype surrounding May this year than was warranted and, as such, his tumultuous season feels worse than it actually was.  It's time we take a step back, forget about May's pre-season status as the top dog in the Philly system, and have a context-free look at what there is to work with.  That's what I've got for you here.

Trevor May looks mighty impressive in his uniform. A broad-shouldered 6'5", he has the frame of an inning eating horse.  There's no projection left, but as May has filled out nicely.  He's only listed at 215lbs but trust me, he's carrying more than that and he carries it quite well. May 's athleticism isn't anything to write home about.  He doesn't always repeat his delivery well and his command suffers as a result.  He cuts himself off a bit before he gets to his 3/4s delivery, an arm angle which stifles some of the downhill plane you'd like to see s 6'5" pitcher get on the ball.  Onto the stuff…

May mostly pitches with a low-90s fastball that will touch as high as 94mph. I did see him kiss 96mph several times in a start early this season but I didn't see that much heat again all year.  May will incorporate a two-seamer every now and then ( it usually hums in around 89mph) but it's not much of a weapon right now.  While previous reports indicate healthy armside run, from my vantage point May's fastball looked straight.  And boy, does he leave it up in the zone a lot.  Many of the whiffs May induces come from high fastballs that big league hitters will either scoff at or launch into orbit.  It's been an issue of May's for a while now and it hasn't been corrected or even improved. 

May’s stable of secondary pitches is headlined by a good looking curveball.  It’s usually sharp with good depth and breaks late.  He can bury it and throw it for strikes and he adds and subtracts from it well.  It usually sits upper-70s but he’ll take some off and throw a big, loopy curve in the low 70s once in a while. I can’t decide if I’m pleased he’s learned this little trick or concerned because he thought he had to.  There’s one HUGE problem with May’s curveball.  He throws it from a different arm slot than his other pitches.  He’s 3/4s for everything except the curve for which his arm becomes more vertically oriented upon acceleration.  As such, it’s easy to pick up out of his hand.  This needs to be corrected yesterday.

May’s changeup is bad.  In his Eastern League Semifinal start last week he threw just one handsome changeup through 5.1 innings of work.  He often leaves it up in the zone, same as the fastball, and it rarely exhibits the fade/action you look for en un buen cambio.  May also throws a slider/cutter type thing in the 82-86mph range.  It’s short and unrefined but it exists.

So what exactly do we have here? In short it’s a pitcher with an ideal build and above average velocity with some fatal flaws in his secondary stuff and whose control/command development has stagnated.  I wouldn’t be surprised if May began next season back at Reading, though if I were in charge, I’d send him to Triple-A where more seasoned hitters won’t let him get away with the stuff he still mostly gets away with against Eastern League bats.  Maybe adversity and failure in front of minor league baseball’s biggest crowds will catalyze development.  If he’s an abject failure next season, maybe I start thinking about penning him.  Regardless, May’s ceiling is mostly the same (folks, I saw 96mph, a plus curve and a plus change at various times this year. A mid-rotation starter is in there somewhere) but the chances he gets there are now minute. 
I could go on forever about May because, most of the time, prospect failures are far more interesting than their successes.  You’ll see a new name atop the Phillies organizational prospect rankings next year but that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up on Trevor May.  It’s just time to over hype somebody else.