New York Giants: Joe Judge Called The Team’s Largest Offseason Risk

New York Giants, Joe Judge

It was clear that the New York Giants were going to need a new head coach coming into 2020. The Pat Shurmur era didn’t work out, and losing the locker room had even some of the most optimistic voices calling for the Giants to make a change at coach at the end of the 2019 season. Things had hit a breaking point, and a lot of names were mentioned as options for a new head coach for the Giants.

One of the names that wasn’t brought up much at all was Joe Judge. However, that didn’t change what the Giants saw in Judge. It also didn’t change that they would eventually hire him to become the next head coach.

But Judge’s experience is limited. He’s never been an offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator. With the Patriots, he was the special teams coordinator. He was responsible for a part of the game that’s the most forgotten.

It’s a big risk for the Giants, even if Judge does have support from Nick Saban and Bill Belichick.

According to Bleacher Report, that’s the biggest risk that the Giants have taken this offseason.

To his credit, Judge hired a veteran with head coaching experience to run his offense in former Cowboys head man Jason Garrett.

But given the massive monkey wrench the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into the 2020 offseason, this year’s first-time head coaches (like Judge) face even more adversity than they usually would.

The Giants don’t just have a new head coach in Judge, but also many new staff members on offense and defense starting with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. The Judge Administration is all new, making it an even bigger wild card for the team, and with potentially no preseason this year, we might not get to see a glimpse of how the move will pan out until September when the season begins.

But with the Giants having performed poorly under their past two staffs, a wild card is a welcome change at this point to a fanbase that’s tired of the same types of hires as Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur.

Paul Sewald is the Victim of the Mets’ Bad Defense, But That’s Due to Change

When most people think of Paul Sewald, the 30 year old righty on the New York Mets, they think of his career 5.16 ERA, his inability to close games out, and being the epitome of what the Mets’ bullpen has been in recent memory. This often leads to Mets fans groaning and moaning when they hear his name called out of the bullpen, but is that all Paul Sewald is? He’s given up a ton of big home runs and hasn’t been a good reliever, but is that all she wrote?

Using stats that can show the true skill of a player, we can figure out if Paul Sewald is better than his ERA suggests and spark some hope in his success, let’s get to the data!

Can’t Hit It Hard Off Of Him

This was actually surprising when I was studying Sewald’s statcast metrics (from Baseball Savant of course, I spend way too much time on there) he has a career 31.8% hard hit% against, which is below the MLB average 34.5% and a .413 xSLG against which is average, a .318 xWOBA against, which is a little better than average, and a 24.5% K%, which is higher than the MLB average.

Batters struggle to hit the ball hard off of Sewald, and that’s something that for some odd reason has not translated well into a lower ERA, which is the big mystery right?

Death By a Million Hits

Paul Sewald has a career 8.8 H/9 which is not good at all, and combine that with his below average 9.1 BB% in 2018, and that’s how you get a 6.07 ERA. In 2018 he also had his worst H/9 of 9.9 which lead to a 1.509 WHIP. That explains a lot now doesn’t it? Sure he had a 3.98 xERA in 2018, and yea he didn’t get hit hard at all, but he had one massive issue: He couldn’t stop bleeding out hits.

When you look at his spray charts, in 2018 you see the onslaught of hits that he gave up, with a lot of them not being hard hit, not going very far, and making you wonder: Why did he give up so many? Well the answer is actually quite simple

Horrible Defenses Behind Him

It’s often undervalued how much a pitcher with a high contact against rate needs a good defense behind them. The Mets in 2018 had -69 DRS and a -32.1 UZR (which was the 27th in the whole MLB) and in 2019 a -86 DRS (28th) and -12.8 UZR (24th) which is not doing Sewald any favors. Does this situation get any better for the Mets though? Yes actually, it gets a lot better in 2020.

The Mets will be able to have Jeff McNeil in his best defensive position, 3rd base, instead of the outfield where he was below average defensively. Nimmo and Conforto are best at RF for Nimmo and LF for Conforto, so you can put the elite defender at CF Jake Marisnick and now your outfield is above average defensively. Now for the infield, with McNeil at 3rd who will replace Frazier (who was below average at 3rd defensively in 2019) which should help the defensive structure in the infield, however you still have your poor defensive combo in the middle infield.

Does this mean this team will have an elite defense? No, but it will be good in the outfield which is most important as that’s where Sewald got exposed and will see less doubles and triples, and more outs.

Look for Sewald to be closer to his xERA with a 3.80-3.90 ERA and be a solid reliever for the Mets in 2020, as the Mets defense won’t be digging the pitching into even deeper holes.

MLB: 31 players have coronavirus in preliminary testing

As Major League Baseball players and staff returned to home stadiums for “summer camp”, they had to undergo coronavirus testing. With everyone now tested and results available, the league has released the general results of the tests.

3,185 tests were conducted across the league between players and staff, with just 38 positive results. 31 of the positive results were for players. 19 of the 30 teams had at least one player or staff member come back positive.

When you crunch all the numbers, it comes back to be a 1.2% positive test rate. That number is actually quite good.

New York State is a state that has beaten and lowered the coronavirus curve. Although the state saw a high infection and positive test rate this spring, the virus is now under control. Right now, the state has a 1.38% positive test rate. The MLB’s rate is lower than the rate of one of the best states right now, so that’s impressive. In contrast, Florida is seeing a 14.59% positive test rate.

The test results are very encouraging in terms of getting the season started as planned. Obviously, things are still very fluid and can change very quickly, but the league is in good shape right now.

Now that players are back in home cities, they should be able to cut down and limit their contacts to reduce the chances of picking up the virus on the street. Although the league isn’t in a “bubble”, players need to be super cautious about where they go and who they see away from the stadium.

Opening Day is less than three weeks away, and that’s very exciting. Hopefully, baseball can prove to be a great distraction during these unprecedented times.

NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson tests positive for COVID-19

This Saturday night, the UFC makes it's long anticipated return to Las Vegas with UFC on ESPN 9 which will be headlined by a welterweight contest between former champion, Tyron Woodley,

Johnson’s No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet will be piloted by Justin Allgaier this weekend at Indianapolis.

NASCAR has confirmed that Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson has tested positive for COVID-19. The seven-time Cup Series champion will not race at Sunday’s event, the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 Powered by Big Machine Records at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (4 p.m. ET, NBC). His No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet will be driven by Xfinity Series veteran Justin Allgaier.

According to a release from NASCAR, Johnson notified NASCAR of his positive test. Another statement from HMS revealed that Johnson was tested after his wife Chandra had “tested positive after experiencing allergy-like symptoms”. A member of Hendrick’s No. 48 travel crew will also self-quarantine due to, as the latter release reads, “close contact with the driver”.

“NASCAR has outlined the steps for Johnson’s return,” the former statement reads. “In accordance with the CDC’s current guidelines, which includes that Johnson is symptom-free and has two negative COVID-19 test results, at least 24 hours apart. NASCAR requires Johnson to be cleared by his physician before returning to racing.”

“My first priority is the health and safety of my loved ones and my teammates,” Johnson said in the HMS release. “I’ve never missed a race in my Cup career, but I know it’s going to be very hard to watch from the sidelines when I’m supposed to be out there competing. Although this situation is extremely disappointing, I’m going to come back ready to win races and put ourselves in playoff contention.”

NASCAR and its three national series have returned in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic after a two-month hiatus. Races have been run without practice or qualifying, turning race weekends into single-day endeavors. Social distancing measures have been maintained with press conferences being held virtually over Zoom and only essential personnel has been admitted to the track. Fans have not been admitted to a majority of events, but the showings at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway admitted a select number of spectators. NASCAR is expected to welcome in 30,000 fans to Bristol Motor Speedway on July 15 for the annual All-Star Race exhibition.

Johnson, 44, has spent his entire career in the No. 48 and has appeared in 663 consecutive Cup Series races. His seven titles are tied for most in series history alongside Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty and he leads all active drivers with 83 Cup wins (tied for fifth all-time with Cale Yarborough). Shortly after the end of the 2019 season, the first time he missed the NASCAR postseason, Johnson announced that 2020 would be his final year as a full-time racer.

NASCAR has also clarified that Johnson will be eligible for a waiver to reach the NASCAR playoffs if and when he returns. Playoff rules dictate that a driver must partake in all 26 regular season races to be eligible for a spot, but has granted such waivers for extenuating circumstances. Previous 2020 examples include Ryan Newman (who missed three races due to injury) and Matt Kenseth (who took over Chip Gannasi’s No. 42 Chevrolet after four races for the fired Kyle Larson). Johnson is currently in the playoffs in the 12th slot, 63 points ahead of 17th-place Austin Dillon, the first driver out.

Johnson’s replacement will be Allgaier, who currently sits seventh in the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings. He drives the No. 7 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, which is co-owned by Hendrick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and the latter’s sister Kelley. Allgaier, 34, has finished the no worse than seventh in the Xfinity Series in each of the past nine seasons and drove two full years (2014-15) at the Cup Series level in the No. 51 Chevrolet for now-defunct HScott Motorsports.

Allgaier will run both the Cup and Xfinity races. The former, the Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard, will be held on Saturday on Indianapolis’ road course (3 p.m. ET, NBC). Allgaier will start fifth on the road course, but will likely have to move to the end of Sunday’s field due to a driver change. Starting positions have been determined by random draw in lieu of qualifying.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Dalvin Tomlinson A Long-Term Building Block

New York Giants, Dalvin Tomlinson

The New York Giants have quickly built one of the best young defensive lines in the NFL recently. Since taking over as general manager in 2018, Dave Gettleman has invested the following into the defensive line: 2018 third-round pick, 2018 seventh-round pick, 2019 first-round pick, 2019 seventh-round pick, 2020 third-round pick, 2021 fifth-round pick, $16.1 million franchise tag.

Interestingly enough, one of the best players on the Giants’ defensive line was not a Dave Gettleman acquisition. Jerry Reese’s 2017 second-round draft pick, Dalvin Tomlinson, has been the most consistent and reliable defender on the Giants over the past few years. Soon enough, the young defensive lineman will be due for a new contract.

What Might Tomlinson’s Contract Look Like?

The interior defensive lineman position is growing particularly expensive. Aaron Donald, the league’s best at the position, signed a record-breaking contract worth $22 million on average annually in 2018. Now, Chris Jones of the Kansas City Chiefs is searching for a contract north of $20 million and could find himself on the trade block because of it. With this considered, Dalvin Tomlinson’s contract could be north of $10 million per year. However, there is reason to believe he is fully worth that contract value.

Dalvin Tomlinson Stats and Highlights

Dalvin Tomlinson is as consistent as a defensive lineman can be. In 2019, Dalvin only missed 3 tackles, a missed tackle rate of only 5.8%. In 2018 he was even more consistent, missing just one tackle (1.7%). Tomlinson has played and started in all 16 games in each of his three NFL seasons.

The 2019 season was the best of Dalvin Tomlinson’s young career. In 2019, Dalvin recorded 49 combined tackles, a career-high 7 tackles for loss, and a career-high 3.5 sacks, 13 pressures, and 7 quarterback hits.

2020 could be an even better season for Tomlinson. Tomlinson compared the Giants’ new defensive scheme to the scheme he used at Alabama in college:

“The technique kind of reminds me of my Alabama days. You can only pick up so much on virtual meetings and things like that so I feel like I’ve picked up the playbook pretty well over the virtual meetings,” Tomlinson said to Sirius XM NFL Radio.

Tomlinson has tried his best to learn the Giants’ playbook remotely, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has made that increasingly difficult for the Giants. The Gmen have a new head coach and new schemes to learn on both sides of the ball. If Dalvin Tomlinson is able to learn the new scheme by the start of the season, he could break out for another career-year.

Should the New York Giants inquire about TE David Njoku?

David Njoku, New York Giants

The New York Giants are entering the 2020 season with Evan Engram, Kaden Smith, and Levine Toilolo as their primary tight ends. History has taught us that Engram struggles to remain healthy, and Smith is a mere youngster in his development. Toilolo is an experienced player with Super Bowl credentials, but he is more of a blocking tight end rather than a pass-catching one.

The question is, can the Giants rely on Engram and Smith to hold down the fort in the passing game?

Looking at Engram stats, he has seen a degradation in numbers and productivity over the past three years. The former Ole Miss tight end had career lows in yards and touchdowns last season, compiling 467 yards and three scores, tying his 2018 total. He also took a step back in his catch percentage, finishing his season with a 64.7% success rate.

While the Giants did pick up Engram’s fifth-year option on his rookie deal, they could still inquire about David Njoku, tight end for the Cleveland Browns. The former Miami product has struggled to develop in Cleveland, having a career season two years ago in 2018, posting 639 yards and four touchdowns. The difference between Njoku and Engram is his blocking abilities. He is far better in the run game with a bit more size to his frame.

If I were the Giants, I wouldn’t consider the current brown as a viable option moving forward. With Engram and Smith already on the roster, the Giants have more than enough talent to work with. In the middle of a rebuild, acquiring a position player that hasn’t lived up to his potential would be malpractice.

Of course, with a few weeks before training camp, it is fair to analyze the potential of a trade, but Big Blue simply can’t afford to give away draft capital for underwhelming tight ends.

In addition, allowing a player like Njoku to steal starting reps away from Engram and Smith would hurt their development and progression. The Giants need to keep it simple and utilize the talent they already have on the roster.

New York Mets: A Training Camp Unlike Any Other

The New York Mets are in the opening stages of their Summer Camp at Citi Field, but it looks more like a shelter in an apocalypse movie. There are masks, hand sanitizers, and every one social distancing from each other.

A usually crowded batting cage is empty, there are marked off sections in the outfield, and the baseballs go through a thorough cleaning after use. Each player and media member also went through screening, and aerobics moved to a well-ventilated room. This is the new normal for baseball in 2020, and even Wilson Ramos said, “It’s hard right now to be here.”

Get Used to It

Because of COVID-19 running rough shot throughout Florida, the Mets have to make something out of every inch of Citi Field. This forces the Mets to have longer days since they are down six fields from their Port St. Lucie complex. They put an extra pitching mound in right-center field, the right field party area is the aerobics room/third weight room, and the exclusive bunting station is down the third base dugout.

There are hand sanitizing dispensers by every station, and conversations were long distance. Reporters are only allowed in the press box, and the stands are empty, which leaves no one to eavesdrop on any discussions. The feeling seemed more like a long ride in an elevator. Music low and everyone keeping from distant from each other.

It is weird to get used to, but at least baseball is beginning to return.

Brooklyn Nets: Jarrett Allen talks NBA bubble, his role in team’s rotation

Brooklyn Nets, Jarrett Allen

In an interview with Brian Lewis of the New York Post, Brooklyn Nets big man Jarrett Allen expressed uncertainty about whether players will be able to fully abide by the rules of the NBA bubble in Walt Disney World later this month.

“It’s going to be 310 players or something like that. Take NBA players out of it: That’s a lot of people to make sure you have complete control and complete guidelines over. Then you add the NBA aspect, a bunch of grown men in this situation. We have our needs, we have our wants, and you know how we are,” Allen said with a smile. “I agree there’s going to be some level of hardship like Dame [Damian Lillard] said.”

Despite the varying levels of apprehension Allen feels the players are in good hands with the NBA and Walt Disney World.

“For everybody, including myself, it’s a little bit of worry. We’re all going to an unknown,” Allen said. “But at the end of the day, I have no doubt the two powerhouses — Disney and the NBA — are coming up with the best solution for us. Obviously, there’s a little doubt in my mind; we’re all human. But I’m confident.

Allen ultimately determined his best choice was to suit up for Brooklyn this summer.

“I did question myself whether it’s worth risking my health. But at the end of the day, weighing the options, it’s better for me to go.”

The Brooklyn Nets could use some more big men

Head coach Jacque Vaughn’s rotation will be thin inside, as center DeAndre Jordan will be sitting out the resumption of the NBA season in the wake of testing positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, fellow big man Nic Claxton is out for the season with a shoulder injury, and forward Wilson Chandler announced he will also be sitting out.

Allen feels there’s “some” pressure on him to answer the bell.

“There is some pressure. I don’t want to say I’m the last big standing, as bad as that sounds. There’s some pressure for me to be able to stay healthy and help the team succeed,” Allen said.

“I’ve been in this position before… Rookie year I was the main big playing, then last year when Ed [Davis] got hurt I had the load, and this year this happened. I just need to come out and prove I’m able to play at this level again.”

Allen is averaging 10.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game this season.

New York Mets: Luis Rojas is the perfect man to lead the team in the short season

The minute he was appointed as the New York Mets‘ manager after the Carlos Beltran fiasco, a myriad of players, coaches, managers and baseball personalities praised the team decision and said Luis Rojas was the right man for the job.

Now, given the unique circumstances of the 2020 MLB season, and Rojas’ experience managing in the Winter Leagues – among other things – we can probably say that he is the perfect man for the job of leading the Mets to the postseason – and maybe more – in the COVID-19 shortened calendar.

Rojas is young at 38, yet he has loads of experience managing groups and practically grew up in a baseball field, being the son of Felipe Alou.

At 38 years old, he has already managed the Savannah Sand Gnats, Class A ball in the Mets’ system; Binghamton Rumble Ponies in Double-A; and the Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League.

As it turns out, the 2020 MLB season is a lot like a regular Winter League season. There, each game is crucial, as the calendars are short. At Escogido, he played a 50-game season. He knows what it’s like.

“There will be challenges on a daily basis,” he said to MLB.com about playing in this environment, filled with coronavirus, uncertainty, and fear, not to mention empty stadiums and little rest.

“Every time you sit down,” Rojas said on Thursday, “you think about the shortness of the season.”

The Mets’ skipper has what it takes

The Mets’ skipper says he speaks a lot with his father, especially since MLB action was halted in mid-March. Alou also knows a thing or two about strikes and bad blood between owners and players, as his Montreal Expos were cruising along in the 1994 short season.

There is a feeling around the Mets that Rojas is ready for anything that this year may throw at his team. Oddly enough, the team he managed in Winter League is known, in English, as the “Chosen One Lions.”

Rojas has already acknowledged how “similar [the 2020 season] is to the winter league … in terms of the length of the season”.

In addition to the already mentioned challenges for the New York Mets and Rojas, they will have to play games in a tough NL East division and also against difficult foes in the AL East, such as the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays. Yet, he projects the calmness and the confidence that lets Mets fans know that they will have what it takes to compete.

New York Yankees pitching coach impressed with Gerrit Cole: “He’s close to game speed”

New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole

The New York Yankees made the splash of the offseason when they secured the services of ace pitcher Gerrit Cole on a record-breaking nine-year, $324 contract. The right-hander was utterly dominant in 2019 with the Houston Astros and will now lead the Bombers’ rotation for years to come.

He made a great impression on Thursday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, sitting in the mid-to-high 90s and touching 99 miles per hour on the radar gun against live hitters such as Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks and Luke Voit. Needless to say, pitching coach Matt Blake was impressed.

Blake said that Cole was already in midseason form, filling the strike zone with fastballs for three innings. The righty had remained active in the stoppage by throwing occasional bullpen sessions, but Thursday was the first time he faced live hitters since the action was halted in mid-March.

“He looked good,” Blake said. “He’s moving right along in his progression. We kind of set the bar for kind of what we’re going to build on, targeting three weeks out and getting ready for the regular season. He’s in a really good spot, and the nice thing is it doesn’t take fans in the stands to get him amped. We’re good there.”

The Yankees’ ace stole the show

Reliever Adam Ottavino also took the mound and threw a couple of innings. Radley Haddad was the catcher, and manager Aaron Boone and assistant hitting coach P.J. Pilittere were among those looking at the action.

Yet, the New York Yankees’ frontline starter was the one who stole the show, evidently.

“He’s pretty close to game speed,” Blake said of Cole. “I think we’re game-ready with velocity. Now it’s kind of just fine-tuning it and sustaining over longer pitch counts. I think he feels good about where he is. He’s always a critic of himself, tightening things up [like] a certain pitch to a certain location. I think we’re building a nice baseline for him.”