NASCAR eschews practice and qualifying for the rest of the 2020 season

Random draws will continue to determine the starting lineups of 2020 NASCAR races, though the process could change for the playoffs.

NASCAR drivers will continue to play the lottery.

The racing series announced on Tuesday that there will be no practice or qualifying for the remaining events of their trio of national circuits. Random draws will continue to determine starting position as NASCAR continues to navigate its way through the current health crisis.

Through this system, NASCAR has been able to trim race weekends into a single day at the track for many of its drivers.

“Following discussions with our race teams and the broader industry, NASCAR will continue to conduct its race weekends without practice and qualifying for the remainder of the 2020 season in all three national series,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller said in a statement. “The current format has worked well in addressing several challenges during our return to racing. Most importantly, we have seen competitive racing week-to-week.”

To Miller’s point, the NASCAR Cup Series has seen seven different winners over the last 14 races since its return from the coronavirus-induced pause. Rookie Cole Custer won the first race of his career at Kentucky Speedway’s Quaker State 400 earlier this month, while Austin Dillon ended an 88-race winless drought this past weekend at the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Traditional qualifying was held for the premiere Cup Series hours before it ran the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway back in May. Field inversion has been common, particularly when tracks have hosted multiple events in close proximity (i.e. the second half of the Cup Series’ weekend doubleheader at Pocono Raceway).

Random draws, however, have been the primary way to determine the starting grid in the Cup, Xfinity, and Gander RV & Outdoor Truck Series. Positions are awarded based on a vehicle’s spot in the owners’ points. The first 12, for example, are assigned one of those corresponding slots in the lineup, while the next dozen get those.

NASCAR had hinted earlier in the week that the process could undergo a small tweak for the playoffs, in which each of the qualifying drivers would get those top spots. The Cup Series welcomes 16 drivers into its postseason, while Xfinity and Trucks welcome 12 and 10 respectively.

“NASCAR will adjust the starting lineup draw procedure for the Playoff races, and will announce the new process at a later date,” Miller’s statement concludes.

Many drivers have praised the lack of practice, often going from their motorhome to their car on race day.

“I thought it was really cool. I think it had zero percent effect on the race winner today,” said Chase Elliott said after a fourth-place finish at the first race back at Darlington Raceway in May. “Hopefully, we can kind of make this a trend and get back to our roots. It reminded me a lot of short track racing, which I think is a lot of fun.”

“I would much rather not practice, personally,” veteran driver and Cup Series points leader Kevin Harvick said after winning the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta in June. “(But) you can definitely have both sides to that equation. I think for me, the benefit is having an experienced team, and being able to get things close is something that our team is really good at.”

The circuit returns to action with all three national series running at Kansas Speedway. Things get rolling with the Super Starter Batteries 400 on Thursday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN). The Truck Series run a pair of 200-mile races on consecutive days, beginning on Friday night (7 p.m. ET, FS1).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

UFC: Alexander Gustafsson says he previously broke Werdum’s nose in sparring

Alexander Gustafsson, UFC

The UFC will be hosting it’s final card of July from Fight Island this Saturday night. One of the fights that’s got people talking is the heavyweight clash between Alexander Gustafsson (18-6) and Fabricio Werdum (23-9-1).

Ahead of Saturday night, the former training partners’ history has come up. Recently, Gustafsson stated that he hurt Werdum really bad in sparring to the point where Werdum wouldn’t spar him again.

The Mauler’s UFC Heavyweight Debut

Gustafsson has long been one of the best fighters in the world at light heavyweight. He’s climbed to a title shot three times, but has fallen short every time.

After his last fight against Anthony Smith, Gustafsson announced that he would be leaving the sport. However, the retirement was short-lived when it was announced that Gustafsson would be returning as a heavyweight.

In his way is a man he’s familiar with in former UFC heavyweight champion, Werdum. It’s always interesting when people bring up their old training sessions leading up to a fight.

The Mauler also says that he broke the former UFC heavyweight champion’s nose, but Werdum has denied this claim. Werdum has lost two consecutive fights leading up to this fight on Saturday night.

If Werdum wins on Saturday, he might walk away from the sport given the fact that he will be turning 43 the following week. If Gustafsson wins, he’s got a couple of options in front of him.

Gustafsson could make the decision to go back to light heavyweight for another run at the title. On the other hand, a win on Saturday could start a new journey for Gustafsson at heavyweight.

New York Yankees option Jordan Montgomery prior to opener

New York Yankees, Jordan Montgomery

In a rather surprising move, the New York Yankees optioned Jordan Montgomery to the alternative training site. This is potentially temporary as he could see himself in the rotation soon or at least on the taxi squad.

He could be starting at the alternative training site in a move to give the Yankees more hitters or bullpen arms. When they are ready for him to pitch, they could option someone to make room for him in the rotation. But on the other hand, the team did keep Michael King on the roster, and he could wind up moving into the rotation instead of Montgomery.

I’m sure it’s disappointing for Montgomery after his strong spring and summer training camps, and for what he’s overcome with Tommy John surgery. He missed the better part of two years from surgery rehab.

Many other moves were made on Tuesday. The team signed David Hale, Luis Avilan, and Chris Ianetta to the 40-man roster and added them to the Opening Day roster.

The team also optioned the following players to the alternative training site along with Montgomery:

-Matt Duffy

-Estevan Florial

-Deivi García

-Zack Granite

-Erik Kratz

-Brooks Kriske

-Tyler Lyons

-Nick Nelson

-Clarke Schmidt

-Nick Tropeano

-Miguel Yajure

-Tony Zych

All these players will continue to stay active, practice and develop. These players can also be called up to the roster at any time. Some of them are already on the 40-man, while others would have to be added.

The Yankees will open the season carrying 30 men, but must cut down to 26 a month into the season. The team will also have to cut down to 28 men after two weeks.

New York Giants: Will FB Elijhaa Penny See An Expanded Role In 2020?

The fullback position is dying in the NFL. Every year, NFL teams utilize the fullback position in their offense less and less. Last season, the New York Giants ran 21-personnel on just 5% of their offensive snaps. Pat Shurmur’s offense featured a heavy dosage of 11-personnel, operating out of that grouping 74% of the time (2nd-highest rate in the NFL).

The Giants were rarely using the fullback position despite having a pretty talented player on the roster at that position. Elijhaa Penny has been with the Giants since 2018. But in both of his seasons with the Giants, Penny played 12% of the team’s offensive snaps.

In 2018, Penny finished the season as the 4th highest graded fullback with a 68.6 overall grade according to Pro Football Focus. Penny’s PFF grade dropped to 57.7 overall in 2019, but the Giants’ offense as a whole saw a decline in performance.

Why Elijhaa Penny Should Be Utilized More In 2020

Pat Shurmur was a fan of Elijhaa Penny, but he never really utilized him in the Giants’ offense. Shurmur spent the vast majority of the Giants’ snaps in 11-personnel. The Giants’ wide receiver-heavy offense struggled the past two seasons. But the Giants now have a new offensive coordinator and a new offensive scheme to implement.

The Giants’ new offensive coordinator is Jason Garrett. Garrett was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys since 2010 and served as their offensive coordinator for three years prior. He has not called plays on offense since 2012, however, the offensive coordinators on his staff have been running Garrett’s offensive system. Garrett’s system has been highly efficient for the Cowboys as they had six top-ten finishes over the years.

Jason Garrett’s offense has a strong emphasis on the running game. In 2019, Dallas ran the ball on average 28.1 times per game (9th highest rate in the NFL). Pat Shurmur’s offense in New York averaged 22.6 rushing attempts per game (4th fewest). The Cowboys also utilized 21-personnel far more often than the Giants.

As previously mentioned, the Giants ran 21-personnel on just 5% of their offensive snaps (21st highest frequency). The Dallas Cowboys utilized 21-personnel on 9% of their offensive snaps (13th highest frequency). Under Jason Garrett, the Giants are likely to run more 21-personnel and utilize the fullback position at a higher rate. This could mean an expanded role is in store for Elijhaa Penny in 2020.

New York Giants: Ranking Jabrill Peppers’ top three plays from the 2019 season

New York Giants, Jabrill Peppers

After one season in the Big Apple, the New York Giants can feel good about strong safety, Jabrill peppers. So far, Peppers has been a playmaking machine; the sky is the limit for him. In 2019, he only played in 11 games but still made an impact on every game.

Here are the three plays that stood out the most about:

Jabrill’s forced fumble against the Vikings

This forced fumble by Jabrill Peppers shows off his hustle and mentality, no easy touchdowns. Most importantly, it shows off Peppers’ ability to never give up on a play. Vikings running back Dalvin Cook had a walk-in touchdown, that was until Jabrill came out of nowhere.  After all, this is what the Giants’ defense needs, more playmakers who are willing to never give up on a play no matter what.

Check out the play in the video below, skip to (5:25)

Jabrill’s pick-six against the Redskins

Jabrill Peppers only had one interception in 2019, that one interception was a pick-six against the Washington Redksins. This was truly one of the best highlights from 2019 because it was against Dwayne Haskins. Not to forget, Haskins laughed when the Giants passed on him in the 2019 draft, Peppers made sure to return the favor.

For example, Peppers had his ups and downs in coverage, this is an area for improvement in 2020. Lastly, Peppers was targeted 36 times and allowed 23 receptions, a 63.9 completion percentage allowed.

Jabrill’s forced fumble against the Cowboys

This play makes Jabrill’s top three plays because it shows off Jabrills’ play recognition. To clarify, Peppers was covering the deep route and noticed the pass going short, Peppers was able to turn on a dime and make a play on the ball. I love this play, Peppers made a great read and also made a great hit on the ball carrier. To rephrase it, having Peppers over the top allows him to read plays and use his quickens to pursue them.

Skip to (2:10)

Jabrill is the king of the offseason

The New York Giants will see a different Jabrill Peppers in 2020. To summarize, Peppers has been killing the offseason, several clips have surfaced of Peppers hitting the weight room and the field. Also, Peppers has been working with the Giants’ fourth-round pick, Darnay Holmes. These two are going to be a nightmare in the secondary, I can’t wait until we get to see them in action.

 

New York Yankees: Will Clint Frazier replace Brett Gardner after the season?

New York Yankees, Clint Frazier

Let’s start by saying something that should be obvious to any New York Yankees fans: Clint Frazier and Brett Gardner aren’t similar in many ways. Maybe Gardy and Mike Tauchman are more alike if we talk player types, but for the purposes of this exercise, let’s say that there will be one roster spot for two ballplayers: Frazier and Gardner. If you are the Yankees, what would you do?

So, it is fair to ask: Will Clint Frazier replace Brett Gardner after the season? Remember that Gardy, who will turn 37 during this season, signed a one-year deal with the Yankees with a club option for 2021. Essentially, the team holds the right to bring him back or let him test free agency.

The Yankees have options

Gardner excells at fielding and baserunning; and those are Frazier’s weaknesses. Frazier has shown a thunderous bat at times and offense is his best attribute, while Gardner, who is coming off a career year with the bat (.251/.325/.503, 28 home runs, 74 RBI, 86 runs, 10 stolen bases, .829 OPS) will likely regress this year and next given his age and the relatively unsustainable 2019 production (while his .344 wOBA is very nice, his .299 expected wOBA leaves a lot to be desired.)

So, considering that the Yankees have “Gardner-lite” in Mike Tauchman, a player that can run and defend just as well as him and carries at least as much offensive upside at their respective points in their careers, they may choose to keep Frazier and let Gardy walk.

Of course, should they find themselves hunting for a big piece to aid the major league lineup or pitching staff this year or next, they may opt to flip Frazier and keep Gardner in the fold as insurance.

Frazier will turn 26 during the season and looks marvelous at the plate right now. Will his defense improve from the lousy 2019 rating of -8.8, per Fangraphs? We, and the New York Yankees, will find out soon enough.

New York Yankees: Pitcher Clarke Schmidt wins the coveted James P. Dawson Award

New York Yankees, Clarke Schmidt
The New York Yankees are nearly done with summer camp 2020. With the split spring training in Tampa and New York, it is unclear what awards will be given out for spring training play. Today the Yankees organization released a press release that announced that Clarke Schmidt had won the coveted James P. Dawson Award.
JULY 21, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CLARKE SCHMIDT WINS 2020 JAMES P. DAWSON AWARD
The New York Yankees today announced that right-handed pitcher Clarke Schmidt is the recipient of the 2020 James P. Dawson Award, given annually to the most outstanding Yankees rookie in spring training.
Schmidt, 24, made four official spring training appearances (one start), posting a 2.57 ERA (7.0IP, 2ER) with 8K. The El Toro, Calif., native was selected by the Yankees in the first round (16th overall) of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft. He entered the 2020 season tabbed by
Baseball America as the Yankees’ No. 2 prospect and as having the “Best Curveball” among all Yankees farmhands.
The award was established in honor of James P. Dawson (1896-1953), who began a 45-year career with The New York Times as a copy boy in 1908. Eight years later, he became boxing editor and cove red boxing and baseball until his death during spring training in 1953. Two winners of the honor, Tony Kubek in 1957 and Tom Tresh in 1962, went on to win the American League “Rookie of the Year” Award. The Dawson Award first was presented to rookie Norm Sieb ern by Manager Casey Stengel in St.
Petersburg, Fla., at the conclusion of spring training in 1956. New York Yankees beat writers vote on the winner. In conjunction with the award, Schmidt will receive a watch from Betteridge Jewelers.
Other recent winners of the prestigious award were Brett Gardner in 2009, Masahiro Tanaka in 2014, Gleyber Torres in 2017, and Miguel Andujar in 2018.  Clarke Schmidt is destined for big things.

Mets news: DeGrom throws and is on track for Opening Day; Marisnick to play today; Cespedes to DH on Friday; Ramos shows up

The New York Mets released details about some of their players’ injuries on Tuesday through manager Luis Rojas. On Monday, it was announced that infielder Jed Lowrie was placed on the injured list with a left knee issue that prevented him from fielding and running smoothly.

Tuesday was a much brighter day, at least when it comes to injuries. Mets’ ace and two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom threw a side session with no incident at Citi Field. The right-hander, you may recall, had a slight scare with his back early last week.

Thankfully for the Mets, he has felt a lot better since then and has reported no further issues that may complicate his availability for Opening Day, a game for which he is still lined up for (Friday against the Atlanta Braves.)

Rojas reported on Monday that center fielder Jake Marisnick was battling “a little bit of left hamstring tightness,” but he is expected to play in today’s intrasquad action at Citi Field and will take at least a couple of at-bats.

Marisnick, Cespedes and Ramos all should be available for the Mets on Friday

So far, just like deGrom, Marisnick’s availability for Friday hasn’t been compromised. He is slated to share center field duties with Brandon Nimmo.

Meanwhile, Mets’ slugger Yoenis Cespedes, who played in two exhibition games against the Yankees on the weekend, said today that he expects to be the team’s designated hitter on Friday against the Braves.

The Cuban star said that he feels good in left field following multiple ankle and heel surgeries in the last two years, but he wasn’t really tested in the weekend, and the only ball batted his way was a home run.

The universal designated hitter rule will allow the Mets to put Cespedes in that spot most nights, provided he can still produce with the bat.

After not reporting to camp since last Friday, catcher Wilson Ramos showed up on Tuesday at Citi Field.

Yankees place Tanaka on the 10-day IL; but he throws 20 pitches and is targeting July 31 to return

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka

After the heart of just about every New York Yankees‘ fan stopped for a few seconds on July 4th, when a Giancarlo Stanton screaming liner hit Masahiro Tanaka in the head, it is fair to say that the Japanese star has come a long way and is very close to return.

However, it is now official: Tanaka won’t be part of the Yankees’ active roster during the first week of the season, as the team put him on the 10-day injured list with a concussion, which was the diagnosis after the unfortunate incident.

The assignation on the IL is retroactive to July 19. The right-hander has progressed very nicely, and was healthy enough to throw 20 pitches from the Yankee Stadium mound on Tuesday. Mound work means that a pitcher is very close to returning to action.

An incredible comeback for the Yankees’ star

If you told us that Tanaka would be ready to rejoin the Yankees’ starting rotation roughly a month after being hit in the head by a 112-miles per hour comebacker, we wouldn’t believe it either. He has even said that he feels very lucky and is very aware that the whole incident could have been much, much worse.

During the session, the Yankees’ pitcher did not use a protective screen, as he, according to reports, wanted to prepare for what it will be like to actually be out there again in official games after his concussion scare.

The New York Yankees are expected to have Tanaka throw around 35-40 pitches in his next session on Sunday, as he increases his pitch count and stamina with a soon return in mind. Fortunately, manager Aaron Boone has several options at his disposal to replace Tanaka for a turn or two.

The Yankees and Tanaka have both said that they will take this process step by step, but the tentative return date is July 31, in a game against the Boston Red Sox at home.

Do the Yankees already have James Paxton’s replacement on the roster?

The New York Yankees gave up prized prospect Justus Sheffield, plus other pieces to bring James Paxton to the Bronx for a couple of years, prior to the 2019 season. His first year in pinstripes was positive, despite the fact that he threw only 150.2 innings. He had a 3.82 ERA (3.86 FIP) and missed lots of bats, with an 11.11 K/9.

The 2020 shortened season will be his last with the New York Yankees, unless he can agree to terms to extend his stay. This year is his last of team control, as he is slated to test the free agent waters in the fall.

Should the New York Yankees bring him back? Of course, in a perfect world, in which money and roster spots are endless, it would be a great idea, as Paxton is a supremely talented lefty pitcher, and there aren’t many of those.

However, the Yankees do have a young, controllable and talented southpaw in the rotation that is virtually Paxton’s in-house replacement: Jordan Montgomery.

Again, it would be perfect if the Yankees brought Paxton back to join Montgomery in the rotation for several years to come. However, the team also has other pending free agents, most notably DJ LeMahieu and Masahiro Tanaka, to deal with.

The numbers’ game says that, most likely, at least one of those won’t be back. It happened to Didi Gregorius last offseason.

The Yankees have a gem in Monty

Fortunately, Montgomery has what it takes to succeed in the majors should Paxton leave. Monty had a fantastic rookie season in 2017, with a 3.88 ERA in 155.1 frames, and a 2.6 fWAR mark. Then, he blew out his elbow in 2018 and lost most of the last two years.

However, almost a year went by since his last appearance, and his arm looks fresher than ever. He even admitted that from an arm strength point, this is the best he has felt in a long time. And it shows.

On Sunday, he dominated the Mets in an exhibition game (5 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K). He is approaching the mid-90s, thanks to his talented arm and the work of Yankees’ pitching coach Matt Blake. His curve looks absolutely nasty, he is locating well, he is changing speeds. He is having fun in the mound.

Don’t be surprised if the New York Yankees get a better season from Montgomery this year. It would be sad to see Paxton go, as he is one of the American League’s top lefties, but the club has its internal replacement in Montgomery.