Life of a Sportsaholic

This blog is intended to be insight into my life as an irrational, stats-driven, obsessive sports fan in Boston. I am a fan of all types of sports with an emphasis on Boston teams and am a proud UConn alum.

Month: September 2016 (page 2 of 2)

GAME DAY

UConn Football Game Day vs Navy

UConn Huskies at Navy Midshipmen
3:30pm CBSSN

Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland

When a W Isn’t Really a W: What UConn Needs to Improve

David Hahn/Icon Sportswire

David Hahn/Icon Sportswire

After watching the UConn Huskies barely squeak out a victory against the Maine Black Bears on Thursday night, I didn’t feel happy or even a little bit satisfied. I decided to wait before writing about the game hoping that I would feel better about the performance a few days later, but I still just don’t. It was ugly at times and there were several moments of confusion and uncertainty, on offense and defense. Being bailed out by a Bobby Puyol FG is nice, but doesn’t erase the overall performance.

I know it was just 1 game, but here are some of my concerns going forward based on the 1st 60 minutes of the season.

  • If Bryant Shirreffs continues to run as often as he did against Maine, he will not start all of the Huskies games this season. Shirreffs took a ton of big hits and put himself in some dangerous positions on Thursday, a bad injury waiting to happen. Some designed runs make sense and occasionally pulling the ball down and running is the safest option with good pass coverage, but it appeared he barely read his receivers on most non-designed runs. He would drop back, take 1 look at 1 receiver, then pull it down and run. He must be more patient and make more than 1-read in the passing game if this team has any shot against higher-level competition.
  • The much-hyped UConn defense was meh at best. Maine found huge holes in the secondary as they net 269 passing yards and had 2 big 40+ yard completions. The Black Bears averaged 14.2 yards per completion, which is just way too high for this defense. The D stuffed the run quite effectively, but without a solid pass defense, opponents with even better QBs and receivers will eat them alive. Missed assignments and bad coverage technique needs to improve quickly.
  • UConn didn’t use their TEs enough in the passing game. The Huskies have 4 primary TEs who rotated throughout the game but caught 3 total passes. Bob Diaco loves to run 2+ TE sets to help with the run game, but if you focused a bit more on getting the ball into their hands in the passing game, it would open up holes for Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson in the run game and keep Shirreffs upright in the pocket more often. Quick curls or slants that pick up 4 or 5 yards would make a huge difference on 1st and 2nd downs and lessen the pressure to run constantly.

At the end of the day, a mark in the W column looks the same whether you upset a top opponent or barely beat a low-level one, but the first game of a football season makes a statement, good or bad. For the Huskies, game one was concerning.

Another Missed Opportunity for Red Sox

When the Toronto Blue Jays lost to the New York Yankees 5-3, the door opened for the Red Sox to move back into a tie for 1st place in the AL East. Considering their opponent, the 56-80 San Diego Padres, it seemed as though the situation was aligned perfectly and an easy W was there for the taking. Unfortunately the league’s most powerful offense went dormant for a 2nd straight day and managed just 1 run on a Chris Young solo HR. The 2-1 loss was just the most recent example of a low-scoring, 1-run loss for this Red Sox team.

In the grand scheme of the season, this game likely won’t mean anything, but with 25 games remaining and just 5 against teams with losing records, it hurts. After taking 2 of 3 from the Oakland Athletics, then need to win this series with the lowly Padres or they may be in trouble. If they win the next 2, then all is right with the world and they finish their last 6 games at 4-2 against bad teams, but if they manage to lose 1 or 2 of the remaining games, it tells me they are not ready to make or compete in the post season.

The offensive inconsistency has continued all season and is certainly concerning. They are leaving an awfully high number of men on base and are not able to come through in clutch situations (6 left on Monday). They had a runner on 3rd base in a 1 run game in the 8th inning with 1 out and they couldn’t drive him in. Those situations are critically important and determine the outcome of close games. When faced with an opportunity like the one on Monday, finding a way to score is what separates a great team from a good team.

In their last 4 games they scored 16, 11, 0, 1 runs. On average, those numbers make it appear the Red Sox are scoring 7 runs a game, which in any context, should at least get them 3 wins in their last 4, if not 4, but numbers can be deceiving and they are just 2-2. When it comes playoff time, it will be much harder to have the high-scoring games, and significantly easier to score 3 or fewer runs given the top pitching faced on a daily basis. Right now, even if this team makes the postseason, don’t expect much advancement.

Red Sox Reset: 5 Things to Watch for the Final 29 Games

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

As September arrives and minor league call-ups are beginning to get the good news from the Red Sox front office, a postseason run is in the air over Fenway Park. This year has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride and I suspect September will be no exception. If you are a Red Sox fan and invested in the team’s success, stock up on Tums and Pepto-Bismol now, because you are definitely going to need it. Here are 5 things to watch for with 29 games remaining in the Red Sox season.

5. The next 3 series will set the tone for the final 3 weeks

I know it’s cliche, but momentum down the stretch is absolutely critical. The final 23 games of the season are against AL East rivals, including teams directly in front and behind the Red Sox in the standings. The 6 games prior to that stretch are games on the west coast against the Oakland Athletics and the San Diego Padres, two last-place, sub-.500 teams. I know west coast travel and playing on the road is tough, but if the Red Sox do not win 4 of 6 in these 2 series, it will be a failure. You have to beat the teams you are supposed to beat and these are the only remaining series in which you should have a significantly more talented group than your opponent.

4. The Red Sox starting pitching must avoid bad mistakes

The Red Sox pitching staff has gone through good and bad stretches throughout the season. In order to make the postseason and have a chance at perhaps winning a wild card game or a series, the Red Sox starters have to be smart and not give up the big hit or make a big pitch mistake in a tight situation. As of late, a bad pitch leading to a big HR or a big base hit has hurt the Red Sox and in closely contested, playoff-like games, one big pitch mistake could be the difference between a W and an L. The starters don’t need to shutout opponents because their offense is so talented, but consistent quality starts (6IP+, 3 or less ER) will go a long way to help the bullpen and put Ws on the board.

3. Effectively use September call-ups – especially at 3rd base

On September 1st (today), MLB rosters expand to 40 from 25. It allows teams to bring up younger talent and give them a chance to play in the big leagues. In this case, the name with a chance to have the biggest impact is Yoan Moncada, who has been working out at 3rd base in the minors. Since Spring Training, the hot corner has been a questionable spot in the Red Sox lineup. Pablo Sandoval is gone for the season (thankfully) and Travis Shaw started strong, but has accumulated 15 errors and been just OK in the batter’s box since. With call-ups, young phenom Moncada can get his chance to grab the 3rd base job from Shaw and potentially provide a nice spark for the Red Sox.

2. Avoid situations where John Farrell needs to make an in-game decision

I understand the premise of this is flawed, but bear with me because it’s incredibly important. John Farrell is a below-average manager when it comes to making in-game decisions, especially with the pitching staff (great for a former pitching coach, eh?). He has repeatedly made head-scratching decisions about which bullpen arm to use later in games and many of them have back-fired. The easiest way to avoid his incompetence without firing him? Avoid close games late. Take the game out of Farrell’s hands by putting games out of reach earlier on and leaving fewer guys on base. This is mostly on the Red Sox offense to round back into April/May form and put crooked numbers on the board whenever a decent scoring opportunity arises. I know it’s much easier said then done and they are never not trying to score, but a shift in mindset is necessary give the managerial incompetence.

1. Simply treat every remaining game like a 1-game playoff

Throughout the course of an 162-game season, there are some games you don’t push your pitching staff or bench as much as you could in order to rest players. It’s justified as an effort to preserve player health for the long-haul of a season. That’s over now. The Red Sox are 2 games back of the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East (who they play 6 more times) and 2 games ahead of the 3rd place Baltimore Orioles (who they play 7 more times). These and other opponents are playing for their playoff lives and it is highly likely that 1 game will have a significant impact on the difference between winning the division, grabbing a wild card spot and playing golf on October 3rd. Unless there is an extremely compelling reason, everyone should be available every single day, whether it’s off the bench for a pinch-run or pinch-hit scenario or out of the bullpen for a batter or two. Every game is absolutely critical and September is no time to be cautious.

GAME DAY

UConn Football Game Day vs Maine

 Maine Black Bears at UConn Huskies
7:00pm ESPN3

Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Connecticut

Newer posts