Dave’s Free Play, Saturday 3/28/15

  • March 28, 2015

If you subscribe to the change is good theory, you’ve got to be impressed with the new look San Diego Padres. The Friars put a new man in charge to try and rebuild the franchise, and AJ Preller has taken the bull by the horns in what amounts to a mass transformation of the team.

I don’t think there’s any question a major gamble is taking place with the Padres. Welcome to Preller Mania if it works out. But if this goes the other way, the Padres could be behind the proverbial eight ball for years to come. Put me on the side that says it was worth the shot regardless. San Diego hasn’t won much recently, they’ve been painfully boring to watch and they had absolutely nothing to lose. Thus from a risk vs. reward perspective, I’m giving two thumbs up to Preller.

The Padres have been good pitch and no hit for some time now, and the staff looks to be in tremendous shape. Andrew Cashner, James Shields, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy are a stellar quartet of starters, and I think Brandon Morrow, if healthy, could resurrect his career with the Padres. The pen looks solid enough with Joaquin Benoit the headliner. I do think the Padres are in need of some lefty help though, as they’re really thin when it comes to southpaws and that could be a critical factor in situations where the specialist is required.

The offense is clearly improved. The all new starting outfield of Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton might not win any Gold Gloves, but that’s a load of offensive talent, and the Friars have good depth here as well.

Now for the potentially bad news. The San Diego infield looms as a significant liability. Yonder Alonso doesn’t have ideal power for a first baseman and needs to find a way to at least get the BA to a better level to offset his lack of punch. I’m not sold on Jedd Gyorko as a mainstay at second base, although I do think he has the moist upside in this group. The left side of the infield is a big problem. Derek Norris should be adequate behind the plate and his power is a plus.

My biggest concern with the Padres is that they go into sell mode in a hurry if things don’t work out, and that would be a disaster for a team that hasn’t been thrilling its fan base lately. That’s why when I look around the SD infield, my optimism for this team wanes considerably.

I don’t see the O/U as a strong play either way. The pitching is absolutely good enough to carry this team and with the upgrade to at least part of the offense, an intact roster should mean a winning season. But getting to the mid to high 80’s might be asking a bit too much and if the Padres start slowly, things could get ugly. As it stands now, however, I can see the Padres battling for second place in the NL West with at least a chance to be playing in October.

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I’m writing this before all the Friday results are tallied, but the evening is not off to a good start, so my recent skid is unfortunately still going. The good news is I like the Saturday NCAA card, so here’s hoping it delivers something positive.

And the best news is that baseball is just about here. The players have had enough of the meaningless games and so have the fans. Find about exactly what my baseball program entails by shooting an email my way at cokin@cox.net.

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No results yet on the two Friday plays, so I’ll update that on Sunday. Meanwhile, it’s Elite Eight time at the Big Dance and I’ve got an opinion to share on Notre Dame-Kentucky.

(511) NOTRE DAME  vs.  (512) KENTUCKY

Take: (512) KENTUCKY -11

One cannot help but be impressed with the way Notre Dame has come together. The Irish did themselves proud winning the ACC Tournament and now they have a chance to become the big story of the entire season by knocking off all-powerful Kentucky.

Great storyline to be sure, but I don’t see it happening. I’ve said all season the only team that can beat Kentucky is Kentucky, and that opinion hasn’t changed even a little bit. The Wildcats are an incredible collection of pure talent and they’re just huge to boot.

Therein lies the problem as I see it for Notre Dame. When peering at potential matchups as the brackets were put together, I circled this one as  what I felt loomed as a blowout possibility. It’s just a matter of size to me. Notre Dame is talented and they really run some first rate stuff on offense. But they’re not big and they’re not physical and that makes the Wildcats a really bad opponent for Mike Bray’s outfit.

I’m not saying the Irish have no chance here. If they can light it up from beyond the arc again, as they certainly did in the ACC final against North Carolina, and as they did in the win against Wichita, Notre Dame can hang. But that’s anything but a sure thing against the Wildcats, who just happen to non the best three-point defense in the country.

I just don’t see how Notre Dame can have much success inside against the mammoth Kentucky front line. Unfortunately for the Irish, they are also going to be hard pressed to get many second chances here, so I’m not sure where the points required to compete will come from. That therefore could put the burden on the Irish defense to stifle the Wildcats and that just isn’t their strong suit.

The number is big, and the idea of getting doubles with Notre Dame will be very appealing to many wagerers. I don’t see it myself. On a pure power rating, I think a case for the Irish can be made. But the matchup is the overriding factor for me, and I believe Kentucky will eventually turn this into a fairly lopsided result. I’m laying the points with the Wildcats.