Saturday, June 8, 2013

Now Just On Twitter

To make it official for posterity's sake, this blog is now just a Twitter account. 

Please check in at @PadsBoltsIllini for future updates, photos, and 140-character analysis of the Padres, Chargers, and Illini.

Good times.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Few Seasons at the Hot Corner

Though the position has been oft-maligned in the 40-plus years of the franchise - Sean Burroughs, though a monster in my view, comes to mind - the Padres have had some quality single seasons by third basemen.

Leaving out the names for now, how about these lines produced by Padres third basemen:

1.  .286/.376/.498  31 bombs  115 ribeyes
2.  .330/.385/.580  33 bombs  100 ribeyes
3.  .326/.408/.621  40 bombs  130 ribeyes
4.  .286/.310/.472  21 bombs   64 ribeyes
5.  .306/.388/.588  41 bombs  126 ribeyes
6.  .228/.329/.413  20 bombs   65 ribeyes

Granted, this is pretty much all there is worth mentioning (except maybe a Kouz season I left off), but these seasons are pretty solid.  Even the dicey seasons put up by #s 4 and 6 were at least good enough to produce a few runs virtue of the 4-bagger.

You probably know these guys, but here are the names to match:

1.  '12 Chase Headley
2.  '92 Gary Sheffield
3.  '06 Ken Caminiti
4.  '73 Dave Roberts
5.  '01 Phil Nevin
6.  '84 Graig Nettles

Nothing wrong with a trip down memory lane.  The reason I bring these numbers up is because I wonder if Chaser can improve on his monster '12 season and put up a season like Cammy or Nevin did back in the days of "enhanced" numbers.  Though I don't expect Chase to match those numbers, I'm looking forward to watching him try.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Rotation

The Padres currently have, give or take a guy, 14 pitchers competing for rotation spots this Spring Training.  That number includes Cory Luebke and Joe Wieland who are recovering from Tommy John surgery and won't be available until mid-summer at the earliest.  The remaining 12 guys are a mix of veterans and youngsters, none of whom are top-of-the-rotation starters.  It could be a long season at Petco Park.

But what if some of the veterans had a season equal to their best season ever.  Then the Padres would have something!  Just look at the numbers:

1.  Jason Marquis - 15-7  3.71  201.1  [2004]
2.  Edinson Volquez - 17-6  3.21  196.0  [2008]
3.  Clayton Richard - 14-9  3.75  201.2  [2010]
4.  Freddy Garcia - 18-6  3.05  238.2  [2001]
5.  Tim Stauffer - 9-12  3.73  185.2  [2011]
6.  Eric Stults - 8-3  2.92  92.1  [2012]  

This could absolutely happen.  In fact, if Freddy Garcia doesn't throw 238 innings, I'll be shocked.

Friday, August 31, 2012

What Will It Take For The Illini To Win a BCS Championship?

Can the Illini win a national championship in college football?  At the moment, no.  While theoretical physics, I'm sure, could prove that yes, it is possible for the Illini to win a BCS Championship, the cold reality of big-time college football as it currently exists in this SEC and Southern Cal-dominated world counsels otherwise. The fact is, while possible, it is the longest shot of any of the teams I steadfastly root for - those teams being, of course, the Padres, Chargers and Illini football and hoops - and certainly not something that looks attainable any time in the foreseeable future.

What, then, would it take for the Illini to win a BCS title?  To try to answer that question I've compared the recruiting rankings of the current Illini two-deep to the recruiting rankings of the current two-deep at LSU, a recent national champion and a team on the short-list of those favored to win a title this season.  Granted, comparing recruiting rankings - in this case the rankings from Scout - is by no means a concrete indicator of what Illinois needs to do to win a championship.  Players are regularly overlooked by scouting services, players develop physically in unexpected ways, and players simply get coached up.  Recruiting rankings aren't the be-all end-all.   But I hope the comparison will at least provide an approximation of where the Illini currently are, and where they need to be.  


LSU                                                             Illinois
#14 QB in the '09 class                                 #20 QB in '09 class
#35 QB in the '11 class                                 #67 QB in '11 class
#8 QB in the '10 class                                   #106 QB in '10 class

The Illini are doing okay here.  Our top guy was roughly an equal recruit in the same class as LSU's top guy.  From there it drops a bit and we start to see why depth is important in college football, but we also see why these pure recruiting rankings are misleading.  When I tell you that the #2 at LSU is Stephen Rivers and the #2 guy at Illinois is Reilly O'Toole, do you really see much difference between the two?  (Setting aside, of course, that Stephen can call his legendary brother, Philip, for advice at any time.)  Here, the rankings are also skewed a bit because LSU's #3 is a transfer from Penn St., Rob Bolden.  Any time you can get an immediately eligible former #8 QB recruit with BCS conference experience as a starter you have to take him.  Who knows how Les Miles will use Bolden but at minimum he adds to LSU's depth, a key factor in winning national championship.  That said, if your starting QB is a top-20 recruit you are doing okay for yourself.  And the Illini are there.  Not just with Nathan now, but when Aaron Bailey gets to C-U too.

Running Back

LSU                                                            Illinois
#27 RB in '10                                              #92 RB in '11
#25 RB in '11                                              #107 RB in '11
#3 RB in '09                                                #94 RB in '12
#10 RB in '10                                              #93 RB in '12

Things start to get dicey here.  I'm as optimistic as anyone about the Illini's young group of running backs, but they weren't thought of very highly by the recruting services, at least not at Scout.  If any of them succeed - and they very well might - it will be because Zook and Beckman found some sleeper athletes and put them in a system that suits them.  But I don't think you can win a national championship if all your running backs are ranked in the 90s or lower.  You need a top 10 guy in the mix, backed up by at least one other 4-star.  Or multiple 4-stars like LSU does it.

Wide Receiver

LSU                                                             Illinois
#40 WR in '11                                              #57 WR in '10
#2 QB in '09                                                NR WR in '11
#44 WR in '10                                             NR WR in '10
#4 WR in '11                                               #254 WR in '10

Not looking good.  Both LSU and the Illini, as with most football squads at any level, will have more than 4 pass catchers at wide out, but this is a representative sample of the four wideouts on both teams who stand to catch the most passes.  LSU, as you can see, is loaded.  They'll run out pure quality as starters and then have two former 5-stars, one a sick athlete who was converted from a QB out of high-school, as backups.  The Illini have one guy who might crack the rotation on a national championship contending team, but after that it's a group of hard-working overachievers who are lucky to be in the Big Ten.  To win a title the Illini need more Arrelious Benns, not Jeremy Whitlows.


LSU                                                              Illinois
#14 DE in '08                                                #7 TE in '11
#10 TE in '10                                                NR QB in '08
#43 DE in '10                                                #63 TE in '10
NR MLB in '10                                             #50 TE in '11

Here is the Illini strength at least on the offensive side of the ball.  I like LSU's style of converting athletic guys who were ranked in high school at other positions and moving them to TE or FB.  I don't think that's all that uncommon, and indeed, the number 2 TE on the current Illini depth chart, Eddie Viliunas, was an unranked QB coming out of high school.  The fact he has risen to number 2 on the depth chart says something about the usefulness of these rankings.  That said, the true TE star on the Illini is Jon Davis, the #7 TE in the '11 class.  Anytime you recruit a top 10 guy at a position and then back him up with other ranked guys, you are putting yourself in a position for hardware. 

Offensive Line

LSU                                                               Illinois
#77 OT in '09                                                 NR OT in '09
#16 OG in '11                                                #57 OT in 11
#67 OT in '09                                                 #16 OT in '08
#11 OG in '12                                                #20 C in '10
#2 OT in '11                                                  NR OG in '09
#78 OT in '07                                                #12 C in '11
#21 OT in '09                                                #81 OT in '10
#7 DT in '09                                                  #128 OT in '11
#26 OG in '08                                               NR OT in '10
#35 DT in '10                                                #96 OT in '11

The Illini offensive line will compete but there are too many unranked guys on the depth chart to reach elite status.  Of the top 10 guys LSU plans to rotate on the OL this year, only three were ranked outside the top 35 at their position, including a couple guys in the top 10.  The Illini have a few guys in that class of player, but the depth is not there.  This is another area where the Illini need to improve recruiting, making it that much more of a shame they missed on every single OL recruit in the upcoming '13 class in the state of Illinois.

Defensive Line

LSU                                                               Illinois
#6 SLB in '09                                                 #47 DE in '08
#23 TE in '08                                                 NR DE in '10
#7 DE in '09                                                   #87 DT in '09
#8 DE in '11                                                   NR FB in '10
#7 DT in '10                                                   #34 WLB in '08
#9 DT in '09                                                   NR DT in '09
#65 DE in '09                                                 #52 DE in '09
#1 DT in '11                                                   #76 DE in '11

Here is the difference between a good defensive line, filled with sleepers who have been coached up, and a truly elite defensive line filled with pure monster talents.  Looking at the numbers you'd hardly know the Illini defensive line is ranked among the top 10 units in the country.  That's a testament to Ron Zook's ability to find sleeper talent, and Coach Gilmore's ability to coach 'em up.  Looking at LSU's list you wonder whether it could compete as a unit not in the college ranks but in the NFL.  Fact is, as good as the Illini defensive line is predicted to be this season, to win a national title you probably need at least a few top 10 guys anchoring the line.


LSU                                                                Illinois          
#19 WLB in '09                                              #68 DE in '10
#84 OLB in '12                                               #54 MLB in '11
#20 SLB in '09                                                #40 MLB in '10
#35 OLB in '10                                               #33 MLB in '12
#4 MLB in '09                                                 #102 CB in '08
#87 OLB in '10                                               #93 OLB in '12

What's this?  Are the Illini almost equal here?  Well, no, considering the top 3 recruits are all on LSU, including the #4 middle linebacker in the 2009 class, but on average LSU, a national title contender, will put a LB ranked about 41 on the field.  The Illini linebackers will average about a 65.  The Illini are one or two top 20 or so LB recruits away from fielding an elite LB corps.  And that doesn't even account for the Illini's Jonathan Brown who might just be the best LB in the country, a result not indicated by his recruiting rank coming out of high school.  The Illini are close at linebacker.

Defensive Backfield

LSU                                                                 Illinois
#13 S in '10                                                      #11 WR in '09
#23 CB in '12                                                   NR CB in '11
#34 CB in '12                                                   #23 CB in '09
#98 CB in '11                                                   #36 CB in '08
#4 S in '10                                                        #79 WR in '09
#40 S in '11                                                      #54 S in '10
#1 S in '09                                                        #51 WR in '08
#45 S in '11                                                      #52 CB in '08

Even without Tyrann Mathieu, who wasn't all that highly ranked a recruit anyway, LSU has a significant advantage here.  Three top 10 guys including a former #1 safety with every other backup except one ranking in the top 40 of their respective class.  That's how you do it.  The Illini have some quality but lack the depth and truly elite talent to compete at the highest level.

Overall, the comparison above doesn't necessarily reveal anything we didn't already know:  the Illini need more elite talent to compete for a national championship.   But how elite?  Do they need a couple top-10 guys at every position?  I think the answer to that question is probably yes.  LSU has 17 on their 2-deep; the Illini have 1 (here's lookin' at ya, Jon Davis!)  Once you get those top-10 guys, you need to back them up with another range of guys ranked roughly between 11-70 at their position (LSU - 23, Illini - 22:  nice!).  And you need to find some sleepers - a skill the Zooker, and hopefully Beckman, had down pat.  And then after all that, you need to get those guys on campus and coach 'em up.  At that point, maybe - maybe - you can get in the conversation about teams capable of winning a national championship.  Beyond that it's all grit, preparation, toughness, and luck.

The Illini's road to a national championship begins with winning a few recruiting battles for some elite talent (Lequon Treadwell?!?), while continuing to spot and develop the Mikel Leshoure's and Whitney Mercilus' who, while not ranked as elite talents out of high school, became that type of talent during college, and ultimately ended up in the pros.  The Illini can do it.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Flip Side

Over a decade ago I decided to attend law school on the East Coast, in Washington D.C., rather than in Our World's Greatest City, San Diego, CA.  It was not an easy choice, but at the end of a long process involving several pros-and-cons lists my decision came down to one factor:  I knew that as soon as I moved to San Diego I would never leave.  With that knowledge in mind, and guided by a youthful sense of "adventure," I decided to check out a few more cities before moving to San Diego.  Or so the plan went when I drew it up in my mind.  Long story short, law school in D.C. led to a job in New York City, and "hey, why not spend a couple years in NYC" became nearly 9 years.  And suddenly it was 2012. 

Suffice to say that I've always wondered how my Padres and Chargers fandom would have been different had I moved to San Diego in August 2000.  Let's start with the Padres.  Knowing myself, in my single days, and with nothing more than schoolwork to occupy my time, I'm guessing I would have attended 40+ home games a season.  Certainly for a cash-strapped student, taking the trolley over to the Q and grabbing a cheap seat in the upper deck would have been very appealing.  I've always envisioned myself studying Contracts or Torts up in the upper sections of the Q during a weeknight game, no one else within 10 rows of me, then heading home after the game - maybe to OB or PB or Mission Beach - and sitting at a bar sipping beers and imagining being a surfer despite having little interest in actually getting into the ocean.  It's all very romanticized.

Just imagine my time in San Diego in the early oughts watching Padres games at the Q!  I would have been there for the Golden Age of Klesko and Nevin.  I could have been excited seeing Mike Daar emerge as young outfielder and then crushed by his untimely death.  Maybe I would have spotted Bret Boone's roids use.  I might have been as disappointed in Ruben Rivera as was Geoff Young.  I could have seen Tony's final days.  Seen Rickey break some records.  Welcomed Kotsay for his first sojourn with the team.  Been there for the rise of Peavy and for Trevor's post-surgery comeback.   I'd have been there for the Q's last game and Petco's first game, and seen live the team, in 2004, play their best baseball since 1998.  Those were some great years to be in San Diego.

And the Bolts too.  How many games would I have seen live each year?  Probably not all 8, but maybe 4?  5?  Certainly possible.  Maybe not in 2000 though.  That was one of the worst teams of all time with Ryan Leaf leading the way to a 1-15 record.  You'd have to give me a break on that one.  I was too young at the time to go to games just to appreciate the work of Rodney Harrison, Junior Seau and John Parella on defense.  But I remember 2001 and the team's 5-2 start and the young LT, the old Doug Flutie, and the chatty Marcellus Wiley.  And in 2002 I was fully on board with Marty and Brees and LT and the team's 6-1 start.  Even as the season turned, I watched every game in a dark, cold sports bar in D.C., wondering what it was like to watch live in SoCal.  Being at the Q nearly every Sunday in '01 and '02 watching LT emerge as one of the great young running backs of all time would have been an irreplaceable experience.  I envy those who got that done.

What this all comes down to really is cred.  Street cred with Padres and Bolts fans.  There's no substitute for the experience of going to the stadium, not only during the glory years, but in the worst years too.  Meet other fans, cheer on the team, get to know every inch of the stadium or the ballpark, know it like your own house, amass tales of epic comebacks, walk-off victories, dagger losses, random run-ins with the players, boozy nights where maybe the ushers you've gotten to know by name throughout the long season tire of your antics.  All these things add up when you go to the games night in and night out.  They are stories that can't be replaced about games that will never be played again.  You become part of the team's history in a very real way.  Twelve years of that is what I missed out on by not moving to San Diego in 2000.

But I also gained an immeasurable amount by living in D.C. and New York, and I'm not just talking about sports.  Most importantly I met my wife and now have an 18-month old daughter.  Those are the two greatest things ever to happen to me ... especially since neither the Padres, Bolts, nor Illini have won a title.  (Since you asked, those three events, were they to happen, would slot in as 3, 4, 5 on my greatest moments list. Though if Deron and Luther and Dee and Augie and Powell had got it done in '05, my wedding night might have slipped to 3 on the list.  I'm only being honest here.  Also note, I say "three events," not four, because let's be honest, the Illini aren't winning a national championship in football.  On the other hand, maybe this guy is just crazy enough to do it.) 

That's not to say the sports on the East Coast aren't great.  Here follows just a short list of sporting events I attended live largely, if not wholly, because I lived in D.C. and New York City for over a decade:

1.  seeing the final round of the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage;

2.  watching playoff baseball, in particular Game 6 of the '03 Yanks-Red Sox ALCS, Game 2 of the '04 Yanks-Red Sox ALCS, Game 1 of the '06 Mets-Dodgers NLDS, Game 2 of the '07 Red Sox-Indians ALCS, Game 2 of Yanks-Twins '09 ALDS, and Game 2 of the '09 Yanks-Phillies World Series;

3.  seeing the Padres at Old Yankee Stadium in '04 and '08;

4.  seeing the Illini at the Garden (2003 v. Providence, 2010 v. Maryland and Texas);

5.  seeing the '05 Illini at Georgetown and against Temple at the Palestra;

6.  seeing Iverson score 50 at the Comcast Center in Philly;

7.  watching the Illini lose at Rutgers in 2006 in possibly the ugliest college football performance of all time;

8.  taking three trips to watch the Padres play the Pirates at PNC Park;

9.  seeing the Padres at Fenway last summer;

10.  seeing the Padres at RFK and at Nationals Park, including this memorable Peavy performance;

11.  seeing the Padres at the Vet and at Citizens Bank Park, including this memorable Peavy performance; and

12.  never seeing a meaningful Knicks game at the Garden despite going to several Knicks games at the Garden.

It all adds up to a great decade and, considering everything, I don't regret moving to the East Coast instead of San Diego in 2000.  But this whole post is just my long way of saying I no longer live on the East Coast.  As of this summer I moved to Southern California.  I'm not all the way to San Diego - at least not yet - but Los Angeles, in large part because it puts me within regular striking distance of the Diago, isn't a bad place to call home.

Just so long as the Bolts don't join me up here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Will See You On The Flip Side


After tonight's Chargers loss to the Raiders, I have decided to take a leave of absence from sports.

I will see you all again soon.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Carson Palmer Versus The Bolts

As you know by now, the Raiders went ahead and traded for Carson Palmer yesterday, giving up two high draft picks for the aged but talented quarterback in a clear attempt to "win now."

The move concerns me as a Bolts fan. The Raiders were a difficult matchup for the Bolts before they picked up Palmer - the power run game, the improving Heyward-Bey, the steady defense that can apply pressure - but now they add a veteran QB who's had success against the Bolts in the past. He hasn't always beaten the Bolts - he's had a less talented team, even in Bengals playoff years - but his passing numbers have been very good, and the games have always been close.

Let's look back at the full history of Palmer v. the Bolts.

Game 1: November 12, 2006, at Cincinnati, Bolts win 49-41

One of the more epic games in Bolts history. The Bungles went up 21-0 and went into halftime with a 28-7 lead behind a pure blitzkrieg led by Palmer and his minions Chad Ochocinco, TJ Houshmandzadeh, and Chris Henry. And remember, this was a dominant Bolts team that would finish 14-2 on the season, and had probably the best defense of the Bolts' recent successful run from 2004 to present. Merriman was in his dominant prime (17.5 sacks), Donnie Edwards was still ably patrolling the middle of the defense, Quentin Jammer was a young ballhawk, and Shaun Phillips, Luis Castillo, and Randall Godfrey got after the quarterback. I mean Luis Castillo had 7 sacks on the season. He hasn't had more than 2.5 since.

Yet despite all that defensive firepower, Carson Palmer carved up the Bolts. He went 31-42 for 440 yards and 3 TDs with no picks. It was the first 400-yard game of Palmer's career (it may also be the last, I didn't go that far in the resaerch). He did fumble on a big sack in the second half that led directly to an LT touchdown run, but he can't be blamed for a Bungles defense that allowed the Bolts to score 42 second-half points en route to a stunning 49-41 victory. Palmer in fact responded after the Bolts pulled to 31-28 in the third quarter by tossing a 74-yard bomb to Ochocinco, and he drove the Bungles to the Bolts 15 with a chance to tie the game late, but just missed a 4th down completion that closed out the game.

He came up a bit short, but no one except Palmer put up more than 30 points on the Bolts in 2006.

Game 2: December 20, 2009, at San Diego, Bolts win 27-24

A matchup of playoff teams, this game was typical of the type of glorious victory the Bolts pulled off time and again during the '09 season, right up until they were bounced rudely out of the playoffs by the New York Yets.

Despite the Bengals loss in this game, which was their first game following the untimely death of Chris Henry, Palmer was again solid against the Chargers defense. He completed 27 of 40 passes for 314 yards with two TDs and a pick. Not an epic day, and the Bungles only scored one touchdown in four red zone trips, but it was enough to keep pace with the AFC's #1 seed on their home turf. Palmer also showed some grit by blocking downfield on a screen pass to Chad Ochocinco on a big 4th quarter play, and, a few plays later, scored a big 2 pt conversion on a sneaky QB draw. He also drove the Bungles 90-plus yards in 6 minutes for a tying field goal with less than a minute to play (including recovering a fumble to save the drive along the way). The Bolts didn't put the game away until Nate Kaeding hit a 52-yard field goal with three seconds to play.

Game 3: December 26, 2010, at Cincinnati, Bengals win 34-20

One of the worst games I've ever watched. The day after Christmas last year, the Bolts merely needed to beat the 2-11 Bungles to maintain their playoff chances. A win at Cincy, and then a win the next week against the just-as-lowly Broncos, would give the Bolts their fifth straight playoff appearance and a home game during Wild Card weekend.

Unfortunately the team came out sloppy and Carson Palmer took advantage. He managed an excellent game, going 16-21 for 269 yards and throwing 4 touchdown passes, including a dagger 59-yard bomb to Jerome Simpson early in the 4th quarter on a dastardly quick snap that caught Antoine Cason unawares and unready. He didn't throw his first incomplete pass until the third quarter, and didn't throw any picks at all. He was also missing the corpses of Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens who both sat out the game with injuries (that actually may have helped him), but still got the job done. In short, it was exactly the kind of game that I'm scared he'll be able to pull off against the Bolts this season. Mixing in a strong running game (Ced Benson and Bernard Scott ran a combined 33 times for a 102 yards in last season's game, doesn't that sound at least like something McFadden and Michael Bush could do) he only needed to pick his spots and pass 21 times, and the results were devastating to the Bolts.

Bottom line: I'm scared of the Raiders and Carson Palmer. And I'm not afraid to admit it.