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Astros keep finding new ways to dominate

Major league batters are very good at hitting fastballs. They aren’t very good at hitting fastballs thrown by Astros pitchers. The Astros held batters to a .225 average on four-seam fastballs, the lowest rate in the majors. They also held batters to the lowest OBP and lowest wOBA on four-seam fastballs. If you include all fastballs, including two-seamers, the Astros rank first in lowest slugging percentage and lowest wOBA allowed. In fact, the four remaining playoff teams all rank among the top five in lowest wOBA allowed on fastballs.nfl cheap jerseys nike

As a staff, the Astros had the second-highest average four-seam fastball velocity at 94.8 mph, as well as the highest average spin rate. The Astros have constructed an entire staff of Tom Seavers. No wonder it’s one of the best team-pitching seasons we’ve ever seen. Houston’s ERA+ (adjusted ERA) of 130 — 30 percent better than league average — ranks sixth best in the divisional era, since 1969. (Last year’s Cleveland Indians staff actually ranks first at 138.) Via FanGraphs WAR, Houston’s staff ranks second since 1969 to the 2017 Indians and tied for third in adjusted ERA.

In one sense, modern analytics merely confirm age-old baseball theories with new data and specifics. The smart teams, however, find the best ways to apply that data and make their players better.6

So how did the Astros turn a so-so reliever on a bad team into one of the best relievers going? They noticed the spin rate on his curveball. Studies show that a high spin rate on breaking balls leads to more effective results. Among pitchers with at least 50 innings, Pressly’s average spin rate on his curveball ranks second in the majors, behind Garrett Richards.

With the Twins this season, Pressly threw his curveball 24.4 percent of the time; with the Astros, he has thrown it 36.9 percent of the time (while throwing fewer of his mid-90s fastballs and maintaining a similar rate with his slider). Batters are 2-for-34 against the curveball since he joined the Astros.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

“They’ve reiterated that my curveball’s probably one of the best in the league, so you should be able to use it more,” Pressley told The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan in September.

Cole has been a talented pitcher since the Pirates selected him first overall in 2011. He finished fourth in the 2015 National League Cy Young voting, but he had stagnated in Pittsburgh and had a 4.06 ERA in 2017. The Astros acquired him in the offseason — and promptly changed his approach.

The Pirates aren’t averse to analytics; heck, Travis Sawchik wrote an excellent book titled “Big Data Baseball” that outlined how analytics helped the Pirates end a 20-year streak of losing seasons and make the playoffs three seasons in a row. The Pirates, however, had a different philosophy: They linked two-seam fastballs and ground balls.

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Knicks waive Joakim Noah, will clear cap space for 2019

After waiving Joakim Noah on Saturday, the New York Knicks will use the stretch provision on the remaining year of his contract to clear salary-cap space in an effort to pursue top free agents in the summer of 2019, league sources told ESPN.

Using the stretch provision reduces Noah’s cap hit of $19.3 million in 2019-20 to $6.4 million, saving the team $12.9 million toward the cap. Stretching his contract, though, will cost the Knicks $6.4 million in cap space in the summers of 2020 and 2021.

Next summer’s free-agent class includes Golden State forward Kevin Durant, Toronto forward Kawhi Leonard, Boston point guard Kyrie Irving and Minnesota guard/forward Jimmy Butler. Irving, however, said earlier this month that he plans to re-sign with the Celtics.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

With the Noah contract stretched, New York is closer to having enough cap space for a max player.

If the Knicks, as expected, do not give Kristaps Porzingis a max rookie extension by Oct. 15, they project to have $31 million in room next summer. The room does not factor in the salary owed to their 2019 first-round pick or the free-agent hold of Enes Kanter, who is in the final year of his contract.1

The projected max contract next season for a player with seven to nine years of service is $32.7 million annually, and it is $38.15 million for a player with 10-plus years of service.

The Knicks will need to complete at least one more transaction to reduce their 2019-20 salary commitments in order to sign a free agent to a max contract.nfl cheap jerseys nike

The club had hoped to trade Noah without taking back much salary, which would have gotten them closer to having the cap space for a max free agent.

Dating back to last February, Knicks general manager Scott Perry had been attempting to move Noah, but he had been cautiously unwilling to include the necessary assets — a good young player or a future first-round pick or picks — to make Noah’s contract palatable to another team.

Noah will become an unrestricted free agent and be available to prospective teams after clearing waivers early next week. The Timberwolves have showed no interest in signing Noah, league sources said. Minnesota’s Tom Thibodeau coached Noah for five seasons when they were with the Chicago Bulls.

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Young QBs like Patrick Mahomes have struggled on road vs. Pats

The New England Patriots have had many notable accomplishments in the 19 years of the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era, and Sunday night’s showdown against the Kansas City Chiefs brings one to the forefront.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

The Patriots are 23-0 at home in the regular season against quarterbacks younger than 25 years old, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information. It started with a win over Tim Couch and the Cleveland Browns in 2001, while the most recent game to fall into this category was the 2018 opener against Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans.3

Next up: Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who became the first player to throw for 10 touchdowns in a team’s first two games. He turned 23 on Sept. 17.

As one would expect from a Belichick-coached team, the Patriots aren’t relying on history to win them a game Sunday night.

“He’s looking like he’s been playing in the league for a few years,” linebacker Dont’a Hightower said. “You’re either a good pocket passer or a scramble quarterback, and obviously he does both well. One thing he does really well, that you don’t see a lot of young quarterbacks do, he tries to protect himself. A lot of runs, it’s him getting out of bounds or getting down a little sooner than expected. He’s a really good quarterback.”cheap nfl jerseys china nike

At the same time, Mahomes has only six career starts, so Hightower acknowledged that part of the Patriots’ success Sunday night will be “maybe giving him some things he hasn’t seen before.”

That has helped against other under-25 quarterbacks who have come to Gillette Stadium over the past 19 years, a group including the Rams’ Jared Goff (2016), the Raiders’ Derek Carr (2014), the Colts’ Andrew Luck (2012) and the Falcons’ Matt Ryan (2009), among others.

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The end of Eli in N.Y.: Time for Giants to move on from Manning

Yet now, at 37, it is slowing down to a grinding halt. Manning has devolved into a shadow of his two-time Super Bowl MVP self, and it was clear Thursday night to every fair-minded fan in the house that his time as the New York Giants’ franchise player is coming to an end.cheap nike nfl jerseys china

Actually, that time already has expired. In professional sports there is no such thing as a franchise player for a 1-5 franchise, or for a team that has lost 18 of 22 games over the past two seasons. As much as it hurts to say it about an athlete who has always carried himself with grace in the world’s noisiest market, Manning’s exit is no longer a question of when, but how.

Eli will play out the rest of the year, and in the spring the Giants will pick his replacement at the top of the NFL draft. Start tracking top quarterback prospects such as Missouri’s Drew Lock and Oregon’s Justin Herbert and NC State’s Ryan Finley, Giants fans, because Manning won’t be earning $23 million under center in 2019, the final season on his deal. His employers will try to put the best possible face on the divorce after the mess they made of the marriage in 2017. Most likely, they will try to persuade Manning to retire as a Giant, to go out with his dignity and his body intact, while eating the $6.2 million in dead-cap cash they’ll take by releasing him.1

The son of Archie and kid brother of Peyton has never wanted any other job but the one he has. It’s why he cried last season when Ben McAdoo and the Giants’ hierarchy took it away, botching an attempt to keep alive his consecutive starts streak while giving some of his playing time to Geno Smith and Davis Webb. Eli ended up on the bench for a singular Sunday that sealed the terminations of McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

But Manning has to be replaced after this season, just like Tom Coughlin had to be replaced after the 2015 season. Eli is 43-58 in the regular season and 0-1 in the playoffs since winning his second Super Bowl title with Coughlin in the 2011 season, and despite the talent deficiencies around him over the years, especially on the offensive line, he has become a conspicuous part of a problem that has no easy solution.

“My confidence in myself is good,” Manning maintained after his Giants were embarrassed at home by the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles. “I know I can play. It’s just a matter of we’ve just got to figure out how to be more consistent and be better at home.”

7

Mason Greenwood needs patience and luck but can succeed at Man United

Manchester United’s 2018-19 season began in the unlikely surroundings of Glendale, Ariz. as Jose Mourinho’s side took on Club America of Mexico. A soporific game ended 1-1 and was only brightened up by young substitutes, one of whom coaches believe can be as good as — if not better — than Marcus Rashford.

“Did you enjoy that?” I asked Mason Greenwood as he walked through the mixed zone toward the United team bus. “Yeah!” he replied, smiling with childlike enthusiasm. Who could blame him, a 16-year-old living the dream of playing for one of the world’s biggest clubs.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

“Mason Greenwood has got the tools to go right to the top of the game and be a top player for United and England,” says Danny Webber, who also came through the United system and is a regular watcher of the club’s younger teams. “He’s two-footed and can take set pieces with either foot. He’s learning the centre-forward role properly now and he’s scoring a lot of goals, but he needs to be challenged.”7

Greenwood, who celebrated his birthday on the first of this month, has played for the Under-18s and 19s in the UEFA Youth League this season, scoring in games vs. Berne and Valencia. He still has some way to go, but what is clear is that he looks far too good for his age group, where he has scored seven goals in his last four games.

“He went to an Under-20 tournament at the end of last season and won player of the tournament,” Webber adds. “A player like him doesn’t come along very often and you need to keep stimulating him and giving him challenges. He needs to keep his head down, keep the right attitude and work at his craft, but he’s already got the stature. He’s six foot; he’s got a frame similar to Cristiano Ronaldo when he arrived at United. When Mason fills out that frame he’s going to have even more power because at the moment he is doing it on ability.”cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Greenwood is one of the few young players from his club involved with England. Nobody from United was in the national team’s Under-16 squad that trained at St Georges Park in August, while Manchester City had five players and Chelsea three. A recent 50-strong Under-15s camp featured only one from United; Tottenham had eight, Chelsea five and City four.

The Old Trafford youth system is still righting wrongs after several years of underinvestment, but the club have kept hold of Greenwood, despite numerous suitors that included Man City. He was recently given his first professional contract and the money involved is significant for him and his family.

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Usain Bolt scores two goals for Central Coast Mariners in trial game

Playing in a central striking role, he scored his first in the 55th minute to put Central Coast 3-0 up with a powerful left-footed finish after racing onto a Ross McCormack through-ball. He promptly produced his famous lightning bolt celebration.

His second goal came in the 68th minute when he capitalised on a defensive error to tap home from close range.

Bolt had a number of other chances before being substituted in the 75th minute, but he struggled early in the game to maintain possession.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Just under 6,000 people turned up on Friday night at Campbelltown Sports Stadium, and they gave Bolt plenty of support whenever he touched the ball, especially one enthusiastic horn blower.1

“Scoring a goal in your first proper match, the first start and scoring two goals, it was a good feeling,” Bolt told Fox Sports. “Because this is what I’ve worked for. I’ve tried to prove myself — I’ve tried to get better. I think I’ve improved in every area.

“I think my touch is that little bit better. My vision needs to improve a little bit more. I think my running off the ball is where I’ve improved most.”cheap nfl nike jerseys china

McCormack added: “The best thing about Usain Bolt is he’s so humble. He’s fitted in well with the lads. From my first day even to where he is now, the transformation is huge.”

Before his double, Bolt wasn’t always convincing, either in his finishing or in holding and distributing possession.

As early as the second minute, he broke clear but wasn’t able to get a shot on goal, as he lost the ball before getting to the penalty area.

In the 23rd minute, he won the ball in the penalty area after losing it, but his close-range shot came off a defender and was comfortably saved.

He came close in the 39th minute when he had his best moment of the first half. The 195cm Jamaican made a strong, well-timed run and jump at a left-wing cross from Tommy Oar, winning an aerial contest and putting a firm header just wide of the post.

12

Seahawks’ run game is rolling, but where’s first-rounder Rashaad Penny?

The Seattle Seahawks lead the NFL in rushing over the past three games with 473 yards, their most in any such span since 2016. They’ve had a runner hit triple digits in all three, something that hadn’t previously happened in their backfield since Marshawn Lynch did it at the end of the 2012 season.discount nfl jerseys china

The long-awaited rediscovery of their run game allowed the Seahawks (2-3) to win two straight after an 0-2 start. Then they nearly upset the unbeaten Los Angeles Rams last week with 190 yards on the ground, which led right guard D.J. Fluker to boast afterward that Seattle “literally kicked their ass up front.”

As coach Pete Carroll put it Wednesday, “This is what we’ve been seeking.”
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And yet Rashaad Penny has hardly been involved.

That wouldn’t be all that notable if not for the fact that Penny is the Seahawks’ first-round pick, a player who was expected to at least split carries with running back Chris Carson even if he couldn’t beat him out for the starting job. Instead, he’s apparently the third option in their running back rotation.nike nfl jerseys cheap

The Seahawks went with Mike Davis as the starter two weeks ago in Arizona when Carson was a late scratch. Then Penny didn’t play a single offensive snap Sunday against the Rams and got only one on special teams. His rushing totals through five games: 29 carries for 92 yards compared to 64/293 for Carson and 36/172 for Davis.

“He’s just looking for his opportunity,” Carroll said of Penny. “He’s dying to get in there. He’s just scratching, clawing to get back out there and get more turns. There just wasn’t enough [opportunities], but this is a long season, there’s a lot of carries, there’s a lot of running to be done. I can’t wait to see him get in there and get going too.”

That Penny has been a nonfactor in Seattle’s offense has invited criticism over the team’s decision to make him the 27th overall pick in April. The move was questioned at the time by those who felt Seattle would have been better off taking care of a position of greater need — cornerback or defensive end, for instance — that early in the draft.

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Josh Rosen a favorite among teammates, who say ‘he’s not weird’

A few minutes after Phil Dawson missed a potential game-winning field goal against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen found Dawson and did his best to console the second-oldest player in the league.

“He had some very encouraging words,” Dawson said.

While the words were a nice gesture from Rosen, Dawson was more impressed that Rosen, a 21-year-old rookie, had the wherewithal to go out of his way to talk to the 43-year-old kicker.buy cheap authentic nfl jerseys

In 20 seasons, Dawson doesn’t remember another quarterback doing anything like that in a similar situation.

“That’s pretty significant,” Dawson said. “But especially when you consider that it’s a rookie quarterback making his first start with obviously a lot of issues on his plate, and for him to take time while processing his first game and a tough loss and all that kind of stuff, to go out of his way to encourage a teammate, especially one in my shoes, I think that speaks a lot for his leadership and just the character of the guy.”11

That’s just who Rosen is. The Cardinals knew what they were getting from Rosen, the quarterback. Throughout the past five months, since he was drafted by Arizona 10th overall, Rosen has shown the Cardinals what kind of person they got.

It hasn’t been the brash, outspoken, opinionated player who made a name for himself because of all those traits in college.

“He’s a delightful person to be around,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “Anybody that spends any time with him, he’s got a vast array of interests, and he’s a very, very interesting person. I’ve enjoyed my time getting to know him.”

“I think that’s the way to do it,” Pugh said. “If you want to be a leader, you have to lead by example first and work hard and show everyone you’re going to do it the right way. And then people start to follow you.

“And then the personality, you got to be who you are. You got to bring who you are to the table. That’s part of the reason why we drafted him. So I’m excited for him.discount nfl jerseys

“He’s getting a chance to showcase that a little bit more. Now you’re in the starting role, you have a little bit more pressure, but that also means you can be a little more out there, a little more open about how you feel and what you’re seeing or doing. So it’ll be fun for him.”

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Why Jake DeBrusk is more vital to the Bruins than you might think

It wasn’t the swine flu. Although Jake DeBrusk admits it certainly made for a more compelling tale from the road after the Boston Bruins returned from China.

“I don’t think it was actually swine flu,” he said. “But it felt like swine flu. Very similar. Very awful.”

As the Bruins went through China during the preseason, with games in Shenzhen and Beijing, everything was going through their 21-year-old winger. “We went on a three-and-a-half-hour bus ride to the airport and then a flight for 12 hours after that. That was tough.”cheap nfl jerseys china nike

He was impressive in stretches last season, with 16 goals and 27 assists in 70 games, playing big minutes with center David Krejci on the team’s second line. He managed 143 shots on goal, fifth among Bruins forwards, and picked up a few votes for the Calder Trophy. But he was a rookie, and with that inexperience came bumps in the road, such as his one assist in six games and five games without a point.12

The role DeBrusk is playing for the Bruins this season is a critical one. His performance as the second-line winger could influence everything from lineup decisions to whether GM Don Sweeney feels the need to go shopping for another winger, as he did in acquiring Rick Nash last season. As DeBrusk’s sophomore campaign gets rolling, it’s that dependability that coach Bruce Cassidy needs to see.

“What we’re looking for is a little more consistency on the nights when the offense isn’t there,” he told ESPN last week.

“Saying that young guys disappear is maybe a little unfair. But sometimes they’re not as dialed in as they need to be. Mentally, they’re not as strong as the older guys, who know there are going to be rainy days. Some rainy weeks and months. So you just have to find a way to contribute. That’s what happens with the younger guys. They have a level of success, and that’s what they want every night, but life doesn’t work that way.”china nike nfl jerseys cheap

DeBrusk knows this. That’s why he has sought council on how to handle what he has called “some ups and downs” in his first NHL season. “I listen to the veterans here. [Krejci] was helping me out, saying stuff that he went through. Obviously, he’s played for a while. He understands the game,” DeBrusk said.

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Inside the Hurricanes’ wild new postgame celebration

Postgame celebrations in the NHL have become perfunctory. Players win a game. Players skate out to the logo at center ice. Players raise their sticks to salute the crowd, perhaps adding a glove clap or two, and then head to the dressing room to pump their victory song of choice from the speakers.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“Listen, they’re all good shows of respect to the people that come and watch. But sometimes they get a little bit stagnant, like you have to do it. It starts feeling less and less, when it should feel more and more,” said Carolina Hurricanes captain Justin Williams.
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What the Hurricanes did was a far cry from the usual stick raise after their 8-5 win over the New York Rangers on Sunday, having rallied with four goals in the third period. All the players lined up on the blue line. The raised their arms in the air and did a slow clap, at times looking like they were transitioning from the “Y” to the “M” in the “YMCA” dance. Williams then broke from formation and skated down the ice, waving his glove for his teammates to join him. One by one, they followed, smiling broadly.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

After the game, Williams was keenly aware that the Hurricanes might have breached hockey culture protocol. It’s a culture that de-emphasizes that level of enthusiasm in an “act like you’ve been there” way, and one that can demonize emphatic celebrations. Witness last week’s incident when Brad Marchand reacted to Lars Eller’s postgoal merriment by repeatedly punching him in the face.

What Williams discovered, however, was an outpouring of love for the Hurricanes’ jubilation. “The response we got from everyone after the game — on Twitter, phone calls and text — about 98 percent of the people enjoyed it. But you can’t please everybody,” he said. “I just think that if we can have fun doing what we love, we’re going to be better for it. Hockey’s a tough game. There are good days and bad days. But if you can enjoy yourself by working hard, we’re going to be a lot more cohesive on the ice. Become not just guys on the ice, but brothers on the ice.”

And, in the process, help change the perceptions of the Carolina Hurricanes, a frequently maligned franchise that hasn’t made the Stanley Cup playoffs since 2009.

“We’re trying to rebrand the Carolina Hurricanes into being relevant, I guess,” said Williams. “This is one small thing. This is just a celebration after the game. But it means something to us because there hasn’t been a lot of success here, and we’re trying to show people that we won’t stand for it.”