By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Writer
1. Welcome into the first ever edition of The Numbers Game written from the confines of my new digs in Denton. I will talk a little bit about my exciting move in just a little bit as I prepare for my first semester at the University of North Texas, but first there are so many sports highlights that need to be discussed. I will attempt to break down every scoring drive from the Dallas Cowboys first preseason win on Monday night, as well as share some numbers on the most exciting Minor League Baseball base runner this season. So without further ado, it is time to talk sports.
2. So raise your hand if you managed to survive all four quarters of the Cowboys-Raiders 3-0 game on Monday night? Now raise your other hand if you would have watched replays of the Olympic equestrian competitions than the second half of that ridiculous nonsense. More raised hands for the latter option? That’s shocking. It is hard to put into words just how sloppy and pathetic that game was from start to finish, and if you are a Cowboys fan there are very few positives you can take from that game. One of the few bright spots was the 24-yard back shoulder fade from Tony Romo to Dez Bryant. For the past couple of seasons we have seen quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers perfect that throw to the point where it is almost a competitive disadvantage for defenses to try and stop it. Bryant has all the physical tools to be in the top tier of receivers in this league, and with a signal caller with top-five abilities in this league, there is no doubt that he should have well over 1,000 yards and 10-plus touchdowns in 2012.
3. Now let’s get to the biggest negative of the evening: the guard-center-guard lineup. While injuries have crippled the Cowboys ability to gel a consistent G-C-G lineup, the setup of Derrick Dockery-David Arkin-Mackenzy Bernadeau is well below NFL standards in every way possible. On the play in which the Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly sacked Romo for a loss of 12 yards, Kelly was able to burst through the A-gap with little contact from Arkin and chase down Romo for a big loss. The play was set-up for Romo to throw a screen pass to the left, but once again the o-line was unable to hold a block long enough for any big play to get set up down the field. I was surprised with the Cowboys keeping Romo out there for three series despite the lack of protection up front. Getting one solid drive in the first preseason game of the season should not be more important than possibly having Kyle Orton start 16 games this season.
4. My last note on the game and about the offensive line is their inability to recognize and communicate properly when defenses stunt up front. You can attest some of the confusion to a lack of continuity with the line, but the Raiders were having a field day with continually stunting their tackles and bringing guys from the inside all the way to the edges. The Cowboys may have something special with running back DeMarco Murray, but if the offensive line doesn’t begin to gel and figure out protection schemes quickly, Murray won’t be nearly as explosive as he could be.
5. One of the most exciting baseball players in the Minor Leagues this season is the Pensacola Blue Wahoos shortstop Billy Hamilton. The Blue Wahoos are the Double-A affiliate for the Cincinnati Reds, and Hamilton is one of the organizations most prized possessions. Now why is he the most exciting base runner in the league you ask? Through 114 games in both High A and Double-A ball this season, Hamilton has stolen 139 bases and only been caught stealing 32 times. The base stealer needs seven more swipes to surpass the minor league record of 145 steals held by Vince Coleman back in 1983. Hamilton has the natural ability of speed to go along with a good understanding of how to steal bases, which is rare in this day in age. You just can’t be fast to steal bases in baseball; you have to understand how to read pitchers and understand what counts to run on and how pitchers are setting up hitters to pick out a good pitch. Hamilton also has an incredible .412 on-base percentage this season, and if he can cut down on the strikeouts (97 in 2012) and increase the walks (74), there is no doubt that next year you will see what many are calling the next Ricky Henderson playing shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds.
6. I had a little free time this weekend after finishing up the move in process, so I decided to do a little numbers crunching and compare the Texas Rangers to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rangers appear to be a lock to make a third straight playoff appearance while the Rays were on inning away from winning eight straight over the past week. Going into Wednesday’s action, Texas was 67-48 while Tampa was 63-53. With Longoria being out for 86 games this season with a partially torn hamstring, it was simply mind blowing to see them only five games back in the loss column of the Rangers. So how is this possible? The Rays certainly aren’t near them because of their offense. B.J. Upton leads the team in RBIs with 49, followed by Carlos Pena with 46 and Luke Scott with 45. However, Scott has played in just 68 games this season and has had two extended stints on the DL. And going back to Pena, the first basemen has a batting average of .192 and an on-base percentage of only .322, yet he is second on the team in runs batted in.
7. When you look at the Rangers and their offensive numbers, the difference between the two teams is quite staggering. Four Rangers have more RBIs than Upton while Elvis Andrus would be second on Tampa Bay with 48 RBIs. So obviously the offensive advantage lies with the Rangers, which means that pitching would have to tell the reason why the Rays are right behind them in the standings. Sure enough, the numbers don’t lie. The Rays have arguably the best pitching rotation in the American League, with Alex Cobb being the lone starter with a record below .500 at 7-8. However, he has a 4.08 ERA, which is only .06 points higher than number two starter James Shields. With David Price leading the AL in wins with 15 and closer Fernando Rodney and relievers J.P. Howell and Joel Peralta virtually unhittable out of that bullpen, the Rays can hold any opponent to three runs or less any night of the week.
8. On the other hand, the Rangers pitching staff is not quite as crisp. Newly acquired Ryan Dempster is set on giving up seven runs a ball game while Yu Darvish now has 79 walks in 140.2 innings. Texas has a team ERA of 4.04 but no longer can feel comfortable with their starting rotation heading into a seven game series in October. While you would have to say that the ace would be Matt Harrison, Derek Holland has still not found his groove this season while Darvish and Scooter Feldman need to figure out how to keep runners off base at a much better rate.
9. I still feel like the Rangers will finish with the best or second best record in the AL come game 162, but you have to be amazed with how the Rays are winning ballgames and staying in the hunt in both the wild card and the American League East.
10. Song of the Week: Lamborghini Angels – Lupe Fiasco. I know this might be the third or fourth Lupe song I have selected as the SOTW, but if he keeps putting out this kind of content it is hard not to honor him with the award. While this song is sure to offend many people with his views on religion, politics, and women’s rights, at least we have someone in the hip-hop community who isn’t resorting to talking about money, cars, and women on every single track. Love him or hate him, Lupe continues to push the boundaries of modern hip-hop on a worldwide stage. Sadly, Lil Wayne could put out a song tomorrow and he would probably outsell Lupe for several thousand copies. If you really want to soak in the lyrics and try and understand what he is talking about, listen to the song with he lyrics on the computer and follow along.
11. I have been chosen to guest spot on Town Square Buzz’s College Corner column, which is normally written by two very talented writers, Christine Baker and Nikki Darling. I will share my story of the first weekend in my new apartment in that column later this week, but I can’t leave my Numbers Game fans without a little sneak peak. Let’s just say that my Sunday involved an 8 a.m. cable installation, a two and a half hour power outage, and volleyball. I love teasers.
12. San Francisco Giants all-star outfielder Melky Cabrera, who owns the second-highest batting average in the NL and was the All-Star Game MVP, has tested positive for testosterone and is suspended 50 games by MLB. Cabrera’s statement through the Player’s Union seems to be a submission of guilt towards his actions, which is ridiculous if he knowingly took the substance and would risk his team’s playoff chances for a little bit of a boost. It is always a sad day in baseball when someone fails a drug test, but it’s even worse when the offender is an All-Star player. By the way, the Giants have 45 games left in the season, which if they make the postseason would mean he would be suspended for the first five games of the playoffs. If the team misses out, he will miss the first five next year.
13. For those who love them some HBO and Showtime programs, next month the fun will begin with brand new seasons of Boardwalk Empire, Dexter, and Homeland. Dexter and Homeland will both kick off on September 30th at 9 and 10 p.m. respectively, while Boardwalk Empire returns for season three on September 16th at 9 p.m. It’s going to be another great fall of programming on HBO and Showtime.
14. Watching Hard Knocks last night was absolutely what you want in an all-access show about a professional sports organization. Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin had the responsibility of cutting Chad Johnson following his domestic assault on his newly wed wife of just over a month. Watching the head coach cut Johnson on national television was as real as any moment in the history of that program. You know HBO was just drooling in anticipation of how many viewers would stop down to watch the once great receiver sit in front of his new head coach and be released at his lowest moment. I won’t go into whether or not he should have been cut, but I will say that I was glad I didn’t miss last night’s episode. If you missed out, just check your local listings for replays on HBO.
15. I think that concludes my business for this week. Check out my football previews on McKinney North and MHS later this week, as well as my special College Corner column. Thank you all for tuning in this week. I’m Mike Bruu? Got to love Anchorman humor. Until next time, ladies and gentlemen.