Archive for February, 2011

The Scoop

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

Over the last two seasons while on the road, Adrian Gonzalez has hit .311 with 48 homers, 105 runs scored and 122 RBI over 161 games. It’s not exactly a secret him moving from the best pitcher’s park in Petco to one of the better hitter’s parks in Fenway should absolutely boost his numbers, not to mention the huge lineup upgrade in Boston. It wouldn’t surprise me even a little if Gonzalez finished 2011 as the No. 1 overall fantasy player. However, I worry about the offseason shoulder surgery, a procedure that can sometimes take some time to fully recover. If he were 100 percent healthy, he’d easily be the No. 2 player on my board. As is, he’s much safer as a late first round pick.

This guy takes diving in soccer to a new level.

A worthwhile read about the deteriorating movie industry.

Carlos Quentin has averaged 27.7 home runs over the past three seasons, which looks pretty enticing when you consider he’s averaged just 428 at-bats per year over that span. Of course, this also highlights just how injury-prone Quentin has become (he set a career-high by appearing in 131 games last season), and he’s also a career .251 hitter. Remarkably, .251 is also his career BABIP. Of course, it wouldn’t be wise to expect that to suddenly creep toward .300, especially since he’s such an extreme fly ball hitter, but since his contact rate isn’t so bad for a power hitter, he’s probably more likely to hit .260 this year than .240 like he has the past two seasons. Quentin is poor defensively and benefits greatly from his home park, but the power upside is very real. I’m buying.

A new form of carpooling.

I’m beginning to think Tommy Morrison’s perception of reality is out of whack.

Sticking with enigmas on the White Sox, Edwin Jackson appears to be the opposite of most pitchers, actually preferring to play in the American League. After a solid season in Detroit in 2009 (3.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 2.3:1 K:BB), he flat out flopped in Arizona last year (4.0 BB/9), only to throw better than at any other point in his career after a midseason trade to Chicago (77:18 K:BB ratio over 75.0 innings). In fact, he had a three-start stretch in which he posted a 32:6 K:BB ratio and walked just one batter in five of his final seven starts. It’s hard to tell if a light switch really went on for the former top prospect, and it’s worth mentioning his schedule was rather easy after joining the White Sox, but he remains intriguing thanks to impressive fastball velocity, and he even saw his GB% jump by more than 10% last year compared to 2009 – all the way to 49.4%, which would be a key skill to maintain now pitching in U.S. Cellular Field.

Interesting stuff regarding life expectancy.

Seems everyone is talking about the new book “Forecasting,” and I found this review enlightening.

What C.J. Wilson did last year transitioning from the pen to a starter was impressive, and while he’s not going to require an especially high pick in 2011, he’s someone to treat cautiously. For one, he saw his workload increase from the year prior (which was a career-high) by a whopping 154.2 innings, which is almost unheard of. He did so while also walking the most batters in the American League, so it comes as no surprise he was awfully lucky in BABIP (.266) and HR/FB% (5.3%), the latter being even more fortunate considering his home park. While some of the same concerns can be said about teammate Colby Lewis, his underlying peripherals are much more impressive (8.78 K/9, 2.91 BB/9). As a fly ball pitcher in Texas, he’s likely to give up too many homers to post an elite ERA, but last season’s 1.19 WHIP looks for real. Many will want to see him do it again before becoming a true believer, so Lewis looks like an undervalued commodity.

As if the Oakland Coliseum wasn’t enough of a dump as is.

Good stuff regarding quarterbacks and sacks taken (although the headline is misleading, since Ben Roethlisberger was suspended the first four games of the season).

Jered Weaver is an interesting case entering 2011, as his previous career-high K rate was 7.68/9 before jumping all the way to 9.35/9 last season. In fact, he led all of baseball with 233 strikeouts, while also posting a career best walk rate (2.17/9). He’s an extreme fly ball pitcher, so while last year’s BABIP (.276) may rise some, it’s worth noting his career mark is .283, so a major correction there isn’t necessarily in store. But can he maintain that strikeout rate, or something close to it? If you believe so, he arguably should be treated as a top-three fantasy starter, although he certainly won’t cost as much. And starting off last year’s baseline, he could regress some and still be among the 10-15 most valuable fantasy starters. It just depends how much you believe in such an increase in performance during a career-year that occurred during Weaver’s fifth season in the league.

Video game urinals? Video game urinals.

Finally watched the series finale of “Friday Night Lights,” and I must say, the last season could arguably be its best. Amazing how a show could remain so terrific despite changing 80% of its cast throughout its running. It’s too bad such quality has been watched by so few.

Before suffering a broken foot last year, Dustin Pedroia was quietly having possibly the most productive season of his career. If you projected his stats over just 150 games, he was on pace to finish with this line: .288-24-106-82-18. He seemed to consciously sacrifice strikeouts (his 12.6 K% was still strong, but his previous high was 8.1%) in order to add power (his .205 ISO was by far a career-high). Chase Utley’s slugging percentage has dropped each of the past three seasons (it’s important to note he actually hit more groundballs than fly balls last year) and an already injury-prone player (he consistently leads MLB in hit by pitch) is quite a risk now at age 32 playing such a vulnerable position on the diamond. Robinson Cano is great (and his durability has been impressive) but just realize if Pedroia hadn’t gone down last season, their stats would have been close to equal, mostly because of the stolen base discrepancy (for that matter, Rickie Weeks and Ian Kinsler are the two second basemen with the most fantasy upside, but their even riskier as far as health is concerned), and it’s also worth pointing out Pedroia’s career BA (.305) is right in line with Cano’s (.309). All that said, while I was ready to go all contrarian and call Pedroia my No. 1 second baseman for 2011, this report regarding the status of his foot is no doubt disconcerting.

Did anyone check out Jay Mariotti on Jason Whitlock’s podcast? Here are some highlights: Mariotti showed zero contrition for his arrest, named Dan Shaughnessy and Skip Bayless among his two favorite writers, doesn’t read Bill Simmons because his articles are too long (“who has the time?”), never heard of A.J. Daulerio, didn’t directly address what Whitlock was asking him in at least half his responses because he apparently didn’t understand the questioning, has never seen “The Wire” (and more importantly, it was unclear if he had ever even heard of the show) and vehemently denied having a “shtick” on “Around The Horn” – although after hearing the podcast, that last part might be true, and that really was him being his true self all along. This is not a good thing.

I’ve reached for younger players with upside less and less over recent years, finding more value in veterans, but there are two especially intriguing hitters I’d be willing to buy the hype and pay the price tag for this year, and they are Jason Heyward and Mike Stanton. And the more I look into it, the more I’m starting to prefer the latter, and that’s without considering Stanton’s current ADP is 100 picks lower. Heyward has more SB potential and much better plate discipline, and it’s possible that thumb injury really affected last year’s stats, which were still quite impressive for a 20-year-old, but it doesn’t look like a fluke he finished with four fewer homers than Stanton despite getting 161 more at-bats. Heyward actually posted a 2.03 GB/FB ratio last season, which translated into a 55.1 GB%, which was the seventh highest in baseball. To put that into perspective, the six players above him COMBINED for 24 home runs. There’s no doubt Stanton is a BA risk with all those Ks, but at 6-5, 233 lbs, he’s already one of the strongest players in major league baseball, so I’m a believer in his HR/FB% (22.9). That he hit so poorly at home (.182/.272/.327) and against left-handers (.218/.253/.391) suggests there’s significant room for improvement too. Both Stanton and Heyward could appear in a dozen All-Star games before all is said and done, but the former’s fantasy value is much closer to the latter’s than the current ADP suggests.

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The Scoop

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

Jay Bruce is hardly a sleeper, but his allure as baseball’s best prospect is definitely in the rearview mirror, as injuries have been a problem throughout his young career, and he’s (rightfully) perceived as a batting average risk thanks to a high strikeout rate. However, his upside remains immense. Bruce clubbed a whopping 15 homers over his final 105 ABs last season and suddenly started hitting southpaws (he posted an .899 OPS versus left-handers after finishing with .562 and .643 marks against them over his first two years in the league, respectively). Bruce’s numbers have been greatly helped by his home park, and while that makes him less valuable in real life, it counts all the same in fantasy terms. Over the first three seasons of their careers, Evan Longoria has averaged one homer every 19.6 at-bats compared to Bruce’s one HR per 18.6. Of course, I’m not suggesting anyone draft Bruce ahead of Longoria, but it’s also worth noting the former enters this season still just 23 years old. Bruce, who is also capable of contributing 10 steals or so and should move up in the lineup while entering his prime, is one of my favorite prop bets to lead the Senior Circuit in homers in 2011.

If I’m ever robbed, I can only hope it’s by this polite gentleman.

If I’m ever woken up on the subway, I can only hope it’s not by this.

Ben Zobrist went from being a legitimate MVP candidate in 2009 (he actually led the American League in WAR, but that’s only because we haven’t developed a proper way to credit catching, as Joe Mauer was clearly the league’s most valuable player) to being a huge bust last season. Put differently, he saw his OPS drop from .948 to .699. His true talent almost certainly lies somewhere in between, but that’s a bit obvious, so the real question is which extreme does it lie closer to. Zobrist hit an anemic .177 after last year’s All-Star break, but that was accompanied by a 44:41 K:BB ratio, suggesting plenty of bad luck was involved. All along he remained effective defensively and on the base paths (he was successful on 24 of 27 SB attempts), and as I’ve said before, it’s highly unlikely Tropicana Field plays as the toughest hitter’s park in baseball again like it did last season. Thanks to a strong walk rate, even during his disastrous campaign in 2010, he was still able to post a .346 OBP, so he should find himself penciled into the lineup one way or another in 2011. Since he’ll be second base eligible in fantasy leagues, he’s an excellent “last year’s bum” target.

Arcade Fire winning Best Album at the Grammy’s was pretty cool, but by far the best music news of the week was the revelation of a new Radiohead being released Saturday. I’m struggling to come up with anything that would make me happier.

Speaking of the Grammy’s – I post this, but I feel bad for doing so.

Can someone help explain why David Ortiz’s ADP is 197.6? After missing significant time in 2008, burning plenty of fantasy owners who spent a top pick on him in the process, he then followed that up by batting .238 in 2009 and then subsequently posted a .143/.238/.286 line last April, so I can understand why some wrote him off. However, despite the hideous first month last season, Ortiz still finished with a .270-32-86-102 line (while missing 17 games), and is it unreasonable to at least partially attribute his poor 2009 to the prior year’s wrist injury? There’s no doubt Big Papi’s best days are behind him, his K rate continues to climb, he struggles mightily against lefties (I actually prefer players with huge splits like this in daily formats), and selecting a DH certainly hurts your flexibility, but he’s also 35 years old, not 40. And he still has the benefits of Fenway Park and a terrific lineup, and he’ll also be playing for a new contract this year (whatever that’s worth). As usual, old, boring veterans remain the market inefficiency in fantasy baseball. Speaking of which, if anyone wants to take a Vladimir Guerrero (whose ADP is currently 86.5) vs. Ortiz bet, I’m down.

This looks perfectly safe.

The “Ghost Ride” guy from above is lucky he wasn’t on this highway.

I don’t have a problem with Billy Butler; after all, he’s a 24-year-old who has belted 96 doubles over the past two seasons and posted a .388 OBP while walking nearly as many times as he struck out in 2010. This article also makes a pretty compelling case in his favor, and it wouldn’t shock me if he won a batting title as soon as this season. However, and maybe this has just occurred in those I’ve participated in, he’s still getting drafted awfully aggressively in fantasy leagues for someone lacking power. He might be able to reach 20-25 homers, but even that’s pretty difficult for someone who hits so many grounders (1.40 GB/FB ratio in his career). Moreover, playing in Kansas City immediately puts him at a disadvantage. He played in 158 games last season, hit .318 and got on base nearly 39% of the time, yet that resulted in just 77 runs scored and 78 RBI despite batting in the middle of the lineup.

Lengthy but an extremely interesting read regarding the lottery and how to beat it.

Did anyone catch the latest “HBO: Real Sports?” I recommend it. Good God, Sean Salisbury looks like a completely different human being. And I love how it didn’t take but five seconds before Mike Tyson vaguely threatened to beat up the interviewer. And I could only wish there was something in life that made me half as happy as pigeons do him.

To be fair, it’s probably healthier than the Meat Lovers Skillet.

Seems to me the naming of Joel Hanrahan as Pittsburgh’s closer was something of a no-brainer. Evan Meek was a former 12th round pick who essentially came out of nowhere last season and posted a 2.14 ERA despite a 2.3:1 K:BB ratio (thanks to a .224 BABIP), while Hanrahan, a former second round pick, struck out 100 batters over 69.2 innings while also flashing a better walk rate. Meek could remain a useful pitcher – his ability to induce groundballs is impressive, and he also saw his average fastball velocity rise to a career-high 95.1 mph last season, but it’s usually safest to bet on skill, and it’s hard not to conclude Hanrahan is the frontrunner here. Clearly inferior pitchers (closers) will be taken ahead of him on draft day.

This is downright embarrassing (and why is that guy buying vowels?).

I’d hate to be the driver following this guy.

I’m a big Carlos Gonzalez fan, so it pains me to say he’s going too early for my taste in 2011. This may be anecdotal (and frankly, I’m far too lazy to do the legwork), but I’m convinced drafting corner infielders early is the way to go (since this is the time to make the safest picks). Pitchers, middle infielders and yes, outfielders are just so much more volatile. Regarding CarGo, it’s easy to point to his .384 BABIP and declare regression, but to be more specific, his xBABIP compared to his real BABIP was the eighth biggest discrepancy in baseball, so while we can all acknowledge he’s easily capable of finishing with a .350 or so hit rate, last year’s number was seriously unsustainable. He can hit lefties, has the advantage of playing in Coors Field and actually got better as last season progressed (1.091 OPS after the ASB). I’m not going to call CarGo a bust, by any means, and while it was impressive to see him play through so many injuries last season, he’s still a health risk moving forward, and it’s quite a gamble paying for his 2010 stats this year.

The takeoff was cool, but I’m more interested in seeing the landing.

People will do anything to get me to link to them in my articles these days.

Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball, there’s no question about that. Looking past his bat, he’s durable, seemingly a nice guy, terrific defensively and by most accounts, even the best baserunner in MLB. And if the reports are true, the Cardinals’ offer was insulting. That said, can we please move past this issue? There will be more than enough time to beat a dead horse over his contract situation, you know, when he actually becomes a free agent at the end of the season (especially with no NFL around, sadly. Seriously, I’m going to go in a clinical depression then. Don’t think I’m exaggerating).

Hey look, a real life Veronica Corningstone.

R.I.P. Uncle Leo.

This guy is the man.

I can appreciate the skepticism that still seems to surround Francisco Liriano (not only by fantasy owners but apparently by Twins management as well), since he remains an injury risk throwing so many sliders (33.8% last year was third most in MLB), and his 3.62 ERA wasn’t exactly elite despite allowing a crazy low 6.3 HR/FB%. In fact, before his last three starts, he had somehow managed to surrender just four home runs over 178.1 innings. However, there’s obviously quite a bit to like as well, as Liriano’s 9.4 K/9 ratio ranked fifth best in baseball (and his BB/9 was markedly better than the four pitchers in front of him in the category), and it’s safe to declare his .331 BABIP prevented him from getting more Cy Young votes (and while there are some changing parts in 2011, this looks even more unlucky when you consider the Twins finished with the sixth best team UZR in baseball last year). Only Roy Halladay’s xFIP (2.92) was better than Liriano’s (3.06) in 2010. Liriano’s average fastball velocity increased two full mph (from 91.7 to 93.7) last year compared to 2009, and his slider was easily the best in baseball (19.0 runs above average). He also induced an impressive 1.96 GB/FB ratio, something rare for such a strikeout pitcher, and while his HR/FB rate is sure to rise in 2011, it certainly doesn’t hurt that Target Field played as by far the toughest park to homer in last year (it’s just one year of data, but it could regress significantly and still be the toughest, and Liriano actually allowed twice as many homers at home than on the road last season). There are currently 22 pitchers with a higher ADP than Liriano, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

The Scoop

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

I’d happily draft Adrian Beltre this year. Many are skeptical about him coming off a contract year, which keeps his price tag down despite just producing a season in which Baseball Monster pegged him as the 14th most valuable hitter in fantasy baseball. In fact, I was able to grab him essentially in the sixth round of the 13-team FSTA draft. Beltre is never going to match his 2004 season, but I’m of the mind Seattle hurt his production far more than him magically wanting to perform whenever his contract is up (what happened in 2009?). His terrific defense makes him a better real life player than in fantasy, but it’s possible Beltre runs more in 2011 (he has an 84% success rate over the past four years, and Texas had far more stolen base attempts than Boston last season). Fenway Park benefits hitters, and there’s no doubt it was a big reason why Beltre led baseball in doubles last year, but it’s also an environment that has suppressed home runs each of the past seven seasons. Texas is an even better hitter’s park and by a significant margin when it comes to homers. Third base gets thin real quick after the big four are off the board, and I’d personally feel more comfortable taking Beltre over Jose Bautista. I understand the trepidation of paying for last year’s stats (that came during a contract year), but at his current cost, it doesn’t appear you’ll have to.

This is a bit on the long side (to say the least), but I found it well worth the time investment.

This ranks up there among the best clips I’ve seen. That “granny” is 75 years old by the way.

At age 25, Delmon Young is certainly still in a growth phase, but I’d let someone else draft him in 2011. It was nice to see him cut down the strikeouts last year, but can you really bank on another .355 BA with RISP? Maybe he settles into a Carlos Lee type career, racking up RBI by virtue of taking few walks and constantly putting the ball in play despite mediocre power, but his home park played as by far the toughest place to homer in last season (yes, it’s just one year of data). Some projected 20 SB potential for Young, but he’s been caught more times (nine) than he’s been successful (seven) over the past two years. RBI is a fickle stat, and Young actually posted his lowest line drive percentage of his career last season and still hits more groundballs than fly balls. I’d stay away.

Forget the new rage of the P90X, this workout is much more effective.

Jordan Zimmermann has a career ERA of 4.71, but that’s countered by a 3:1 K:BB ratio and an 8.75 K/9 mark. He accrued the impressive latter two while pitching as a rookie and then later returning from Tommy John surgery. His innings may be limited in 2011, but he should enter 100 percent healthy now more than a year removed from the TJ procedure. His fastball, slider and curve all project as potential plus pitches. His current ADP is a ridiculous 281, so I can’t think of a better late round flier.

Awesome stuff by Henry Abbott regarding Kobe Bryant and clutchness.

Another pitcher I find generally undervalued is Ted Lilly. His WHIP over the past two seasons is 1.07, a category that’s wholly underrated and for the most part, more reliable than ERA on a year-to-year basis. His fastball velocity continued to slip last season, but that could improve a tick now further removed from shoulder surgery, and it’s not like it affected his performance last season anyway, as he posted a 77:15 K:BB ratio over 76.2 innings after getting traded to the Dodgers. His return to L.A. is terrific news for his fantasy value, as that stadium should suppress his tendencies to give up the long ball, although admittedly, L.A.’s poor outfield defense isn’t ideal for a fly ball pitcher. Still, he’s in baseball’s weakest division for hitting and should be viewed as a top-30 fantasy starter.

This clip is pretty funny, but I’m sorry, I’m skeptical by nature – I personally think it’s fake/staged.

Some view the catcher position as having an obvious top-four, but to me, Carlos Santana clearly belongs in tier one. In fact, I could see ranking him as high as No. 1, frankly, and we all know he certainly won’t cost that price. Of course, he’s riskier than the others, with just a 150 AB sample in the majors and coming off knee surgery, but this is a guy who walked more times (37) than he struck out (29) as a rookie. He even stole nine bases between the majors and Triple-A over just 103 games. Santana’s .868 OPS would have ranked second among catchers had he qualified and was just three points behind Joe Mauer, who has less power upside and Target Field to deal with. For the most part, I believe you find the best value in fantasy baseball these days with old, boring veterans, but this is one youngster I’d pay for. Manny Acta has already stated he plans on giving Santana some starts at first base, and DH Travis Hafner typically needs plenty of rest as well, so Santana should get all the at-bats he can handle. I’d personally take him over Victor Martinez.

This is a few weeks old by now, but still, a must-watch for gamblers.

I believe in David Price’s talent, and he could easily improve as a pitcher this year at just 25 years old, but he’s going to have to in a pretty significant way not to have major regression. Few pitchers’ true talent level is a 2.72 ERA like he posted in 2010, but that number becomes even crazier when you consider his K:BB ratio was so mediocre (2.38:1). Just 6.5% of his fly balls left the yard, and you simply can’t count on Tropicana Field playing as baseball’s best pitcher’s park like it did last season. I don’t believe in the Verducci Effect, but it’s also worth noting he threw 58.2 more innings last season than his previous career-high. Price projects as a true No. 1 starter down the road, but last year’s peripherals strongly suggest a decent sized correction coming beforehand, and pitching in the AL East is such a disadvantage.

I’ll post this one without commentary.

If Brian Wilson appears on a talk show, I’m going to post it.

One starter I prefer to Price is Yovani Gallardo, who posted a significantly better K rate (9.73 compared to 8.11) last season and only a slighter worse BB/9 ratio (3.65 compared to 3.41). With more than 500 innings under his belt in MLB, Gallardo is also a better candidate to take the leap in 2011. In fact, he’s already on his way, as he walked 19 fewer batters last season in the same amount of innings compared to 2009. If he exhibits similar improvement this season, a Cy Young award could be in store. And to think, he’s not even Milwaukee’s best pitcher.

This was made by a “visionary filmmaker.”

Actually, this trailer might be equally as bizarre.

Steals look plentiful entering the year and are often available late, but that also means you’ll have to grab at least two speed guys to compete in the category. Guys like Brett Gardner and Rajai Davis could prove to be bargains, but in a vacuum, it’s better to address that category at the middle infield position. This may seem obvious, but think about it. I’d rather a sinkhole in HRs and RBI from Chone Figgins at second base than an outfield spot that’s far deeper. Put differently, where would a player like Bobby Abreu be ranked as a second baseman? Around top-seven, at minimum, right?

Yeah, this is normal.

The latest UFC event was pretty incredible. Jon “Bones” Jones has been a favorite of mine for a while. It’s not a stretch to call him one of the better fighters in the world right now. And while it was great entertainment to see him get offered a title fight in the ring right afterward (thanks to a Rashad Evans injury), it’s pretty funny to see him as a -200 favorite having to get in the ring again just six weeks from now against the title holder. And while the Anderson Silva fight literally produced zero action over the first 2.5 minutes (and by literally I mean not a single punch/kick was thrown), his knockout was admittedly pretty epic. Made more so by the fact it was taught to him by Steven Seagal! I also appreciated Silva’s interview after the victory, when he talked for more than two full minutes straight while relying on a translator.

This would have been the funniest commercial during the Super Bowl, but that’s not exactly a high bar to clear these days.

For some reason, I’ve become something of a B.J. Upton apologist over the years, but I still say he’s undervalued. Considered a huge disappointment last season, the guy hit 18 homers and stole 42 bags. His SB percentage has improved each of the past three years, and while it’s discouraging his K rate continues to climb, last season was the first of Upton’s career in which he hit more fly balls than grounders, an excellent sign for the future. Moreover, he had to deal with a home stadium that made Petco look hitter friendly last year, an occurrence unlikely to repeat in 2011. That .237 BA is a killer in a category that’s often overlooked, but he’s more likely to hit a more palpable .260-.270 this season. A 20 homer, 50 steal season isn’t out of the question.

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Bet on It

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 2-0, winning my best bet. I’m now 7-3 during the postseason, going 2-1 on best bets. Onto the Super Bowl:

Steelers +2.5 at PACKERS (Best Bet)

Comments: Entering the Divisional Round this year, I was 12-25 ATS in the postseason dating back to when I started picking every game in 2007. I’ve since gone 6-0. I’m not exactly sure what this means, but one thing I’m positive of – I have very little feel for the Super Bowl. Full disclosure – I have a 30-1 futures bet (placed in Week 16 for $50) on Green Bay, so I’ll be a huge Packers fan Sunday. As far as hedging goes, I was somehow able to roll the points up to 3 in Reno this week, and it only cost me the normal 10% juice (this still seems incredibly insane, and the only explanation I can come up with is the book is basically begging people to put money on Pittsburgh at this point). Let’s get to some actual game analysis – Pittsburgh seems to have the advantage on defense, running the ball, experience and coaching, and even when you look at respective passing attacks – Big Ben’s 8.2 YPA is right there with Rodger’s 8.3 mark. But the Steelers’ dominant run defense may actually help Green Bay if it forces the team to rely heavily on its passing game, as Rodgers will be the best player on the field. Maurkice Pouncey’s absence may be a bit overblown (he received a -4.2 grade by Pro Football Focus this year), but there’s no doubt his replacement is a downgrade at a pretty important position. This is the lowest point spread in a Super Bowl in nearly 20 years, and it really could go either way, but the fact it’s being played on turf and in a dome no doubt helps Green Bay. In a coin flip, I’ll side with the Pack, if only because I’m going to be rooting heavily for them either way Sunday.