Archives for: 2008, week 22

06/06/08

Milestone: Chipper Jones Smashes #400

Permalink 01:15:05 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

Chipper Jones connected for career homer #400 against Florida Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco in the sixth inning Thursday evening. Jones has enjoyed an exceptional career while wearing Atlanta Braves colors. His 15th season and could turn out to be his finest. Jones 400th homer raised his major league leading batting average to an astonishing .418 (previous career high of .337 in '07). Last month, Manny Ramirez connected for #500 and Ken Griffey, Jr. remains one short of 600.

Switch hitting Chipper has been collecting headlines all season long as he flirts with becoming baseball's first .400 hitter since Ted Williams (.406) in 1941. Jones has been a model of consistency during his 15 seasons:

Career .310 batting average
20 or more home runs every year since 1994
100+ RBI 9 times (including 8 consecutive)
100+ RS 8 times
.400+ OBA 10 seasons
.500+ SLG 11 seasons
100+ strike outs/season NEVER
1999 NL MVP
92 post season games

The quest for .400 has seldom been approached. Rod Carew (.388), George Brett (.390), Ichiro Suzuki (.372), Tony Gwynn (.394) had their shots and fell short. 2008 is still young. Chippers swing has been extremely smooth and baseball's must appear to be larger than beach balls.

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06/03/08

19 Year Braves Veteran Returns to Closer Status

Permalink 12:43:28 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

John Smoltz 19 year career stats .

Career Highlights:
W/L 211-147, 3.25
Saves: 154
Games: 707
1992 NLCS MVP
1995 World Series Champ
1996 Cy Young Winner
2002 Rolaids Relief Man of Year
Post Season ERA: 2.65
40 Post Season Games (24 Playoff Series)

John Smoltz has been a tough as nails pitcher for 19 seasons for the Atlanta Braves. He's pitched on some of the Braves biggest games. After suffering arm soreness this season, Atlanta placed Smoltz on the disabled list. He's 3-2, 2.00 as a starter this year. He's back on active duty now but due to his shoulder woes has requested to return as team closer. Due to his past successes and Atlanta's pitching staff without a true closer... John's the man, at least for now.

This move is out of necessity to Smoltz. It appears, at least for 2008, his shoulder could make this Smoltz final MLB season. It's too early to tell but he must be hurting to request this move after pitching effectively earlier. Shorter stints of 1 inning per game will suit him better than trying to last 7. The emergence of good starters gives Atlanta flexibility to have Smoltz regain his closer status.

Smoltz developed and recovered from previous arm ailments. A 1999 injury shelved him for all of 2000 after 11+ seasons as a starting pitcher. He was a power pitcher who challenged batters in every start. Often playing for weak hitting Braves clubs undoubtably shaved off a few career victories. 1996 was his best as a starter going 24-8 and winning the Cy Young award. After missing the 2000 and better part of 2001 campaigns, Smoltz took over Atlanta's full time closer duties and shut the door on NL hitters to the tune of 154 saves (including 55 in his first full year closing). 2005-07 saw him return to starting pitcher and he was outstanding posting a 44-24 record).

This could be his farewell season depending on his arm. The game I'll never forget was his first World Series in 1991, Game 7 at Minnesota. Smoltz and Jack Morris locked horns throwing shutout baseball. Pitch for pitch, out for out, this game was a nail biter. Smoltz was finally removed after 7.1 sharp innings and Minnesota's Jack Morris pitched the game of his life for a 1-0 10 inning Series clincher. Smoltz was almost always stellar in post season play. Too bad Atlanta endured mostly weak lineups which struggled every game to score runs. Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were the best 1-2-3 starting combination of the 1990's. All contrasting styles with Smoltz representing pure power pitching with a blazing fastball and devastating slider.

Smoltz is one of the few current day pitchers baseball will miss when he decides to hang up his cleats. Seemed like Atlanta had a chance to win every game he started and seldom blew a lead when called on to close. Hopefully, he'll be successful again this season as a closer. New Yorkers hope he doesn't get any opportunities vs Mets (24 career saves).

06/02/08

NBA Finals: Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers

Permalink 01:47:05 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

NBA Finals Preview

Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers

The 2008 NBA Finals tips off in Boston this Thursday (June 5). The Celtics and Lakers have met 10 times in NBA Finals history with Boston winning eight. Both franchises are two of the most storied in all of sports.

The Celtics conquered Atlanta, Cleveland and Detroit on the way to their first Finals appearance since getting beat by LA in 1987. Head Coach Doc Rivers completed a masterful season guiding his squad to a 42 victory turnaround from a season ago. Much is this transformation has been due to an excellent off season which produced a new look squad featuring additions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Boston dominated all season long winning 66 games as trio Garnett, Allen and Paul Pierce made headlines.

Boston's road to the finals has been challenged, reaching seven games in series vs Atlanta and Cleveland before prevailing in six over Detroit in the Eastern Conference Finals. Leading scorers: Garnett (21.1), Pierce (19.2) and Allen (14.0) had been hounded by stingy defenses this post season. They'll be tested vs LA however, there will be plenty of opportunities in this round. If Boston runs the court and finds a way to stymie Kobe.. then Doc's team will be champions. On defense, it's all about stopping Kobe Bryant. Boston's stellar defense should be able to slow down the leagues MVP often enough for victory.

Head Coach Phil Jackson (976-418, 9 Championships) is one of the NBA's greatest ever. In his first three LA seasons, Phil's teams won three Championships on the heals of three straight while in Chicago. He knows how to prepare his team physically and mentally. He's done a masterful job this season and faces his toughest challenge by way of an energized Boston Celtics team.

League MVP Kobe Bryant guided his team over Denver, Utah and defending champion San Antonio. The Lakers are better rested by advancing in only 15 games. Leading playoff scorers: Bryant (31.9) has often taken over games, Gasol (17.7), Odom (14.7) and Fisher's clutch 3's (.559 3pt%) have provided the punch. Defense has played well late in games but have been vulnerable in first and second quarters. The Lakers cannot expect continued miracles over coming big first half deficits. Boston will not allow it. LA's defense must be in synch for four quarters or this attention creating Finals matchup will not live up to its' billing. On offense, it's all about Kobe. He'll need to hit big shots and dish to open players effectively while double teamed. Kobe's supporting cast will need to take high percentage shots when available off Kobe's passes. I just don't see this team slowing down Boston enough to keep up and win. All wins could be decided in the first half.

These teams met twice during the regular season with Boston winning with ease both times (104-97 & 110-91). After playing the leagues top defenses in early rounds, Boston's offense will find new life and could score at will. It's difficult to see how LA can matchup with Doc Rivers deep and talented squad.

Prediction: Celtics in 5