Archive | April 2016

Jake the Transformer

Jake ArrietaA lot has been made about Jake Arrieta’s success with the Cubs, prompting baseball-clueless guys like Stephen A. Smith to allude to the possible use of performance enhancing drugs. Somewhere along the way, Smith decided that his knowledge of basketball somehow qualified him to speak feverishly on other sports in which he has very limited knowledge in, and ESPN loves putting him on your televisions because his antics draw ratings. I mean, we’re talking about a guy who once brilliantly pontificated on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters panel, that an NFL team should’ve attempted a FG on third down, that way if they missed they could try again on 4th down, so unless it’s about basketball, most educated viewers have learned not to take anything he says very seriously. I should give him a break though. I mean, after all, it was mighty noble of him to phrase it in a way that basically translated to “I’m not saying he might’ve used performance enhancing drugs, but I think he might’ve used performance enhancing drugs.” Slippery much, Stephen? This phrasing allowed him to implant PED use doubts in people’s minds, but also granted him the ability to claim he never said Jake used if his comments garnered any backlash. Putting Stephen A. Smith’s reckless ratings-driven comments aside, I decided to give a closer look into Jake’s transformation from thrower to pitcher.

Arrieta was basically just a fastball/sinker pitcher in Baltimore. It’s almost all he threw. Because of their movement, sinkers (and knucklers) rely heavily on weather conditions. It’s one of the primary reasons why sinkerballers and knuckleballers are so inconsistent. Some days they just can’t get it to drop as sharply. Additionally, Arrieta throws his sinker in the mid 90’s, so it’s very close to the speed of his fastball. Jake used that sinker/fastball combination in Baltimore over 60% of the time, so hitters were rarely off balance because the majority of the pitches they saw were coming at them close to the same speeds. Combine that with Camden Yards being a HR hitting stadium, and you’ve got a guy who threw primarily 2 pitches… a hard and straight fastball, and a similarly hard sinker that sometimes wouldn’t sink sharply in a HR hitting division and stadium. The result was 48 jacks allowed in just over 350 innings, and a rather unsightly ERA. If you’re not keeping guys guessing and off balance because you’re basically relying on two pitches with similar velocity, suddenly both pitches become very hittable for major league hitters.

PilatesFast forward to Chicago, where he backed off that mostly 2-pitch formula and gradually started heavily mixing in a slider, a changeup, a curve, and adding cut to his fastball, and suddenly you’ve got an entirely different guy on the mound. Now you’ve got a guy who can throw 5 good pitches, and uses them all regularly. Nasty slider, nasty cutter, nasty changeup, nasty sinker, nasty curve… all with good rotation, and only the change and the curve aren’t thrown in the 90’s, so the other 3 pitches look eerily similar coming out of his hand. As a result, hitters have a hard time gauging which pitch is coming at them. Hitters no longer have a 50/50 shot at dead red or the sinker anymore and aren’t able to gear their timing into one very small window of speeds. With a low 80’s curve, high 80’s changeup, 90 MPH slider, mid 90’s sinker, and an upper 90’s cut fastball… he’s now keeping guys guessing and off balance at all times. That small window of speeds has now become a canyon of speeds. Additionally, he’s been doing Pilates religiously for quite some time now, and that has his flexibility and balance on point, which results in incredible consistency in his mechanics. He rarely has a mistake pitch. When he does, he already has hitter’s so off balance he gets away with most of them rather than turning to watch them fly over the fences in Camden. Let us also not forget the obvious switch from the DH-laden American League to the pitcher-friendly National League.

I realize the Entirely Self-Promoting Network loves the attention Stephen A. Smith’s controversial statements bring them, but unless he can back up his verbal vomit with some sort of pertinent facts, or even just sound reasoning, he should really just stick to basketball.

~Jamie Capria

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Slow Cooker Beef Paprikash

Slow Cooker Beef Paprikash1 medium Onion, sliced
2 pounds cubed Beef Stew meat
2 Tablespoons Flour
Salt and Black Pepper
2 Red Bell Peppers, coarsely chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 cup Beef Broth
2 Tablespoons Sweet Paprika
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 teaspoon Caraway Seeds, crushed
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1/4 cup Dill and Parsley, freshly chopped
Egg Noodles, cooked

Spread the onions in the bottom of a slow cooker. Toss the beef with the flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and place on top of the onions. Top with the bell peppers and garlic. Stir together the broth, paprika, tomato paste and caraway and pour over the beef. Cover and cook until the meat is very tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours.

Uncover and let stand at least 10 minutes. Stir in the sour cream and dill/parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over egg noodles.

~Robert Clement

Footloose and Fancy Embiid

EmbiidFor those of you in NBA keeper leagues who have been eliminated from your playoffs, it’s the perfect time to grab Joel Embiid as your consolation prize. After a single season at Kansas, Embiid was drafted 3rd overall to the Philadelphia 76ers. 2 years worth of foot complications later and Joel has become somewhat of a forgotten man… at least if you’re lucky, anyway. Embiid has yet to play a single game in the NBA and in most leagues he’s been dropped and left for dead. However, Embiid recently returned from a second trip to the Aspetar facility, an orthopaedic and sports medicine hospital in Qatar, where he endured a very detailed and thorough rehabilitation program. According to coach Brett Brown via CSNPhilly.com, the visit had as much to do with lifestyle as it did basketball:

“It was sort of a smorgasbord of everything you would think,” Brown said. “From diet assessment, really planning and talking about food and his diet, the number of meals and portion sizes … things to do with his foot as far as bone density and massage therapy and expected soreness from time-to-time … education on his sleep habits, his sleep patterns. On-court work with skill development … forming a simple but skilled package environment on an actual court.”

“Leaving that and going into the weight room, continuing to develop his body. Doing things with just normal plyometrics and stretching so that the flexibility comes back in because he hasn’t done too much in a few years. It’s not like you’re dealing with a conditioned athlete — he hasn’t done a lot in the past few years so we’re responsible in how we deliver him to those movement aspects of playing basketball again. … It’s very holistic, very smorgasbord-like, all over the place, all designed to his health.”

The 7 footer returned looking very nimble, while also displaying a very sweet and accurate stroke. The video below shows Embiid during a 9 minute pregame workout just 12 days before his 22nd birthday on March 4th before the 76ers played the Miami Heat. If you want to skip ahead, I’ll save you the trouble and let you know that he sinks about 80 to 90% of his shots, including an overwhelming majority of his around-the-horn 3 point attempts. Of course there are no defenders in this workout, but it’s impressive to see the big man displaying mobility and such a soft touch nonetheless. Rumblings out of Philly are that Jahlil Okafor will be traded to open the door for Embiid now that he’s creeping his way back to full health. If he’s available on your keeper league waiver wire, it’s time to snatch him up as your consolation prize. If he looks this good now, imagine how he’ll look on your squad in October.

 

~Jamie Capria