2015 World Series Preview & Prediction – Mets @ Royals

October 28, 2015 on 2:49 am | In MLB | No Comments

The wild 2015 Major League Baseball season will come to a close with a Fall Classic that few envisioned taking place between the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets.

For the Mets, their improbable run spearheaded by young, talented starting pitching, the arrival of Yoenis Cespedes via trade during the season and smokin’ hot bat of Daniel Murphy during the postseason has them playing in the World Series for the first time since 2000. That year, they were beaten by the Yankees in the Subway Series.

Kansas City is playing in the World Series for the second straight year. Last season’s team got in as a Wild Card, surprised at several turns along the way similar to these 2015 Mets, and ended up falling to San Francisco in Game 7 with the game-tying run being 90 feet away.

Here’s how I break down the series . . .

Hitting Edge – Mets (slightly with the footnote that the Royals get timely hits)
Starting Pitching – Mets
Bullpen – Royals
Fielding – Royals
Base Running – Royals

Mets: Murphy has had an outrageous postseason, batting .421 with 7 home runs and 11 RBI. Kansas City has to cool him off and also keep Cespedes in check. Those are the two most dangerous hitters in the New York lineup that can do damage. During the NLCS against the Cubs, they struck early and played from ahead, allowing them to swing the bats with confidence and not press.

Beyond those two, David Wright gives them a veteran who can come up with a key hit in a big spot and same goes for Curtis Granderson, one of three players hitting over .300 for the Mets in the playoffs along with Murphy and Juan Lagares. It’s far from murder’s row, but much better than a year ago when they ranked 28th in the sport in batting average and 27th in slugging.

In the starting pitching, it’s an embarrassment of riches with Matt Harvey (2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in the playoffs), Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz. All were born in 1988 or later and have the type of stuff to control this series if on like they’ve been throughout this postseason. That was seen in sweeping the Cubs, a team they were 0-7 against during the regular season, during the NLCS.

In the bullpen, there are some concerns potentially leading up to closer Jeruys Familia, who was lights out in both in the NLDS and NLCS, especially the Game 5 clincher in the first round against the Dodgers that was a pressurized spot on the road.

Royals: Just like Cespedes was a shot in the arm for the Mets before their run to October, Kansas City got a jolt with the additions of both Ben Zobrist and pitcher Johnny Cueto, an ace when he was in Cincinnati. The Royals are an experienced team, and while they don’t have that singular feared hitter to the quality of Cespedes or even Murphy this postseason, they have a well-rounded lineup.

KC effectively manufactures runs, gets sacrifices, lay the bunts down, do all the little things and intangibles even on the base pads in order to excel. Arguably their most dynamic player is Lorenzo Cain, who enters the World Series having reached base in 15 straight playoff games. Cain was second in the AL in stolen bases and hit a league-high .372 with two outs. Eric Hosmer has been successful in those situations with 67 two-out base knocks.

These Royals are never fazed by a deficit. They came from 7-3 down in the Wild Card game last year against Oakland, then came back to beat the A’s. This season, they were trailing 6-2 in the ALDS in Game 4 at Houston in the eighth inning before rallying. What enables them to erase a deficit and keep it from growing even larger is a steady, sturdy bullpen. Wade Davis at the back end of the pen once was a starter and is money, which he showed in getting out of a first and third jam with nobody out in Game 6 of the ALCS vs. Toronto.

Even though the KC starting pitching may not stack up with the arms at the front end of the rotation for the Mets, they just need Cueto, Yodano Ventura, Edinson Volquez and Chris Young not to get bombed. Keep them in the game and get to Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochevar and Davis in that pen with a chance to win. That would mean advantage Royals.

Pick: Royals in 6. The Mets have been a terrific story, but I feel like the layoff, basically going an entire week since finishing the Cubs off in the NLCS, could have a bit of a negative effect. If the series started a day or two earlier, that might’ve kept with the great momentum they established in the previous series.

KC has been able to come up with late-inning magic in the postseason, both this year and in 2014. The only difference is it’s role reversal to an extent with the Royals being more like the Giants from a year ago and the Mets being the new kid on the block that KC was in that Fall Classic, on an amazing run few expected.

The Royals expected to get back to this spot and have the type of reliable bullpen to hold a lead or mount a charge in what should be a competitive, exciting series with some interesting matchups and strategies playing out.

NFL Week 4 Picks

October 4, 2015 on 7:12 pm | In NFL | No Comments

There are a bunch of toss-up games that could go either way on the docket for Week 4.  The picks went good for both my dad, Mike Hatfield, and yours truly Matthew Hatfield during Week 3.  It’ll be tough to duplicate it, but we’ll give it a try.

On Thursday night, my dad had Pittsburgh over Baltimore, while I ended up calling for a 21-13 Ravens win.  Baltimore won 23-20 in overtime with the point spread being the Ravens favored by 3, so it ended up being a push in that regard.

Let’s review the records and give you some quick hitters on the games for Sunday and Monday . . .

Records:
Matthew Hatfield 30-18, 28-20 ATS, 10-2 Locks, 3-3 Upsets
Week 3 – 13-3 SU, 13-3 ATS, 5-0 Locks, 1-1 Upsets

Mike Hatfield:  27-21
Week 3 – 11-5

NY Jets (2-1) vs. Miami Dolphins (1-2) in London . . . This feels like a game that the Dolphins must win in order to keep pace with the improved Jets and Bills as well as defending Super Bowl Champ New England in the AFC East.  However, the Jets lead the NFL in takeaways with 11, four from CB Darrelle Revis, and have given up a league-low 41 points thus far.

Matt Says:  Miami 17-14 (MIA +2.5)
Mike Says:  Miami

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) at Indianapolis Colts (1-2) . . . Jacksonville will try to stop a five-game winning streak by the Colts in the head-to-head series and their chances are better than usual with Indy star signal caller Andrew Luck sidelined due to a shoulder injury.  Chuck Pagano and company are looking to save him for their following division matchup, Thursday night against Houston.  Defensively, the Jags are searching for answers as they gave up 51 points to New England the last time out.  Matt Hasselbeck isn’t Tom Brady, but the Colts at home still probably have more firepower minus Luck than the Jags do.

Matt Says:  Indy 24-16 (IND -4)
Mike Says:  Indy

NY Giants (1-2) at Buffalo Bills (2-1) . . . Both offenses were sterling their last time out; the Giants getting seven receptions apiece from Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. in beating Washington 32-21, while Tyrod Taylor completed 72.4% of his passes for 277 yards and a 3-0TD/Int. ratio in a 41-14 romp of Miami.  The Bills are likely to be without two key playmakers, RB LeSean McCoy and WR Sammy Watkins, due to injury.  That may give Big Blue the upper hand.

Matt Says:  NY Giants 21-16 (NYG +6)
Mike Says:  NY Giants

Carolina Panthers (3-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2) . . . Since Week 1, Carolina has been without stud LB Luke Kuechly, but it hasn’t mattered a ton as the Panthers continue to be tough defensively.  On the back end, defensive back Josh Norman has been a force with 15 tackles, five passes defended, two interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery to earn NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors for September.  Rookie Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay offense may have a hard time overcome mistakes and getting back to .500.

Matt Says:  Carolina 19-10 (CAR -3)
Mike Says:  Carolina

Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) at Washington Redskins (1-2) . . . As inconsistent as these two teams have been, a win here puts them right back in the NFC East race.  Washington’s defense is giving up an NFC-low 277.3 total yards per game.  It’ll be key that LB Ryan Kerrigan, who has made 38.5 sacks since entering the league in 2011, applies pressure on Eagles Sam Bradford.  The Redskins have yet to intercept a pass on defense.  Bradford will want to take shots deep with Jordan Matthews, Riley Cooper and company.  Controlling the clock with RB’s Alfred Morris and Matt Jones is a must for the Skins.

Matt Says:  Philly 24-21 (WSH +3.5)
Mike Says:  Philly

Oakland Raiders (2-1) at Chicago Bears (0-3) . . . Charles Woodson is like a fine wine; he gets better with age.  To go with his six tackles in last week’s game at Cleveland, he made a game-clinching interception with 38 seconds left to play to secure a 27-20 win for a Raiders team on the road that had previously lost 19 of 20 away from home.  Here’s another road game, and it’ll be a tricky one for the 38-year-old Woodson and his teammates with Jay Cutler returning at quarterback for a struggling Bears team.

Matt Says:  Chicago 27-20 (CHI +3)
Mike Says:  Oakland

Houston Texans (1-2) at Atlanta Falcons (3-0) . . . This year, the Falcons have been down in games, but never out.  All three of their wins have seen them rally in the fourth quarter from deficits, beating the likes of the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys from the NFC East.  While RB Alfred Blue and WR DeAndre Hopkins had big games in last week’s win over Tampa Bay for Houston, the Texans will have their work cut out for them slowing down the tandem of WR Julio Jones and RB Devonta Freeman, who exploded for 141 yards rushing and 3TD’s against Dallas.

Matt Says:  Atlanta 34-17 (ATL -4.5)
Mike Says:  Atlanta

Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-0) . . . Not only are the Bengals off to a 3-0 start that saw them survive a 28-24 thriller in Baltimore against their division rival last week, WR A.J. Green was simply dominant with 10 catches for 227 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  The Bengals are looking for their fourth win in a row over the Chiefs in the head-to-head series, but Cincy’s offensive line will have to be up to the task of blocking pass rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston for it to happen.  RB Jammaal Charles of KC is third in the AFC in rushing yards, while Cincy’s Gio Bernard is second.

Matt Says:  Kansas City 23-21 (KC +3.5)
Mike Says:  Cincinnati

Cleveland Browns (1-2) at San Diego Chargers (1-2) . . . To me, this is the Lock of the Week.  San Diego seldom ever loses three straight with QB Philip Rivers, and it happening at home against a Browns team coming off a 27-20 loss to Oakland would be a shock.  Keep an eye on two of the league’s more underrated receivers; Kelvin Benjamin for Cleveland and Keenan Allen of the Chargers.  Both can make a game-changing play in this one.

Matt Says:   San Diego 30-14 (SD -5)
Mike Says:  San Diego

Green Bay Packers (3-0) at San Francisco (1-2) . . . Besides worrying about reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and the prolific Packers offense that has seen their quarterback throw for 10 touchdowns without an interception, San Francisco has to contain LB Clay Matthews.  In the past three meetings with the Niners, Matthews has 4.5 sacks.  Furthermore, QB Colin Kaepernick on the other side of the ball has to take better care of the ball than he did against Arizona when he threw two pick-sixes.  The positive is that he’s won all three starts against Green Run with a 101.3 QB rating, 301 yards rushing and 2TD’s.

Matt Says:  Green Bay 31-12 (GB -7.5)
Mike Says:  Green Bay

St. Louis Rams (1-2) at Arizona Cardinals (3-0) . . . To me, this game comes down to pass rush and pass protection.  Arizona will try to keep QB Carson Palmer upright so that their offense, which leads pro football in scoring with 126 points to this point, continues to hum.  Larry Fitzgerald has been a major force the last two weeks, and for that to continue, the Cards’ o-line has to give Palmer time to find him.  St. Louis is tied for the league lead in sacks with 13 as DT Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn have combined for 6.5.

Matt Says:  Arizona 24-20 (STL +7)
Mike Says:  Arizona

Minnesota Vikings (2-1) at Denver Broncos (3-0) . . . It didn’t look great for Minnesota after a Week 1 road loss in San Francisco, but Mike Zimmer’s Vikings have bounced back with consecutive wins, including a 31-14 victory over San Diego where RB Adrian Peterson ran for 126 yards and a pair of scores.  Only Barry Sanders has more touchdown runs of 40 yards or longer with 20 than Peterson’s 16.  Denver’s defense came up with four sacks and three takeaways in doubling up Detroit 24-12 on Sunday Night Football on NBC, providing QB Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ offense the necessary support it desires.

Matt Says:  Denver 20-14 (MN +7)
Mike Says:  Denver

Dallas Cowboys (2-1) at New Orleans (0-3) . . . For a while, it appeared that QB Drew Brees would not play for the Saints in this one, but word now is that he’ll return after missing their Week 3 loss to Carolina.  With the Panthers and Falcons both off to undefeated starts, this is clearly a must-win at home in front of a prime-time, nationally-televised audience if New Orleans has any sights on going to the playoffs this year.  Joseph Randle ran for 3TD’s in last week’s loss to Atlanta for the Cowboys and they’ll bank on him to deliver against a Saints defense giving up 397 total yards per game.

Matt Says:  New Orleans 24-23 (DAL +3)
Mike Says:  New Orleans

Detroit Lions (0-3) at Seattle Seahawks (1-2) . . . Even though the Lions are winless, QB Matthew Stafford is second in the NFC in passing yards with 814.  The matchup between WR Calvin Johnson and CB Richard Sherman should be one watched all night long as two of the very best players at their respective positions square off on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.  With the return of safety Kam Chancellor last week, the Seahawks showed why their star-studded secondary earned that ‘Legion of Boom,’ moniker, blanking Chicago 26-0.  Look for Russell Wilson and the offense to shine this time.

Matt Says:  Seattle 35-20 (SEA -9.5)
Mike Says:  Seattle

Matt Hat’s Hits:
LOCKS – San Diego -5, Under 42.5 in Miami/NY Jets, Atlanta -4.5, Carolina -3 and Green Bay -7.5
UPSET SPECIALS – NY Giants SU & +6 and Kansas City SU & +3.5

NFL Week 3 Picks

October 4, 2015 on 4:58 pm | In NFL | No Comments

Week 2 was one to forget for a lot of teams.  It also was one to forget for folks like yours truly when it comes to picks.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the odds are good for 2-0 teams to make the playoffs and not so good for 0-2 squads to reach the postseason.  However, an even bigger deal is 3-0 compared to 0-3.  Nine teams are trying to make it to 3-0, whereas eight teams are hoping to avoid the dread 0-3 start.

On Thursday night, both my father – Mike Hatfield – and I – Matthew Hatfield – took the NY Giants to grab their first win.  My call was 24-14 and Big Blue came through with a 32-21 win.  Let’s now move to the rest of the Week 3 slate, starting with how records stack up . . .

Records:
Matthew Hatfield 17-15, 15-17 ATS, 5-2 Locks, 2-2 Upsets
Week 2 – 6-10 SU & ATS , 2-2 Locks, 1-1 Upsets

Mike Hatfield:  16-16
Week 2 – 5-11

Week 3 Slate:

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) at St. Louis Rams (1-1) . . . Which Rams team will show up, the one that outlasted reigning two-time NFC Champion Seattle in overtime or the one that got run all over in a 24-10 loss at Washington?  St. Louis has one of the fiercest defensive fronts in football, led by Aaron Donald.  They’ll have to contend with Pittsburgh’s two running backs, DeAngelo Williams and Le’Veon Bell, now back from a two-game suspension.  Furthermore, Pittsburgh’s passing game is deadly with QB Ben Roethlisberger and WR Antonio Brown.  What might determine the outcome is the St. Louis offense against the Pittsburgh defense.

Matt Says:  St. Louis 17-16 (STL -1)
Mike Says:  Pittsburgh

Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) at Baltimore Ravens (0-2) . . . The big difference in both teams’ start?  Cincinnati is +3 in turnover margin and Baltimore is -2.  Baltimore has its backs against the wall, and without injured pass rushing stud Terrell Suggs, they may have to turn to their own offense led by QB Joe Flacco to keep up with a Cincy offense that seems to be on the rise with RB’s Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill as well as TE Tyler Eifert.

Matt Says:  Cincinnati 26-21 (CIN +1.5)
Mike Says:  Baltimore

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) at New England Patriots (2-0) . . . There probably isn’t a bigger mismatch on the board this week, outside of maybe Seattle/Chicago, than this game.  Jacksonville deserves credit for beating the Dolphins after a lackluster effort in the opener against Carolina.  Blake Bortles and company can’t win a shoot-out with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, who’s playing not only like one of the best tight ends in football but like one of the best players in general.  The Patriots seldom ever lose at home and it would be a total stunner if Jacksonville prevails in Foxboro.

Matt Says:  New England 42-16 (NE -14)
Mike Says:  New England

Indianapolis Colts (0-2) at Tennessee Titans (1-1) . . . Trouble in Indy?  Andrew Luck has the most interceptions thrown in the league since last year, which is surprising given that that he’s widely considered one of the top quarterbacks in the sport.  But all the problems don’t fall at Luck’s feet; their running game has been woeful, the offensive line is struggling to protect him and they’ve had occasional lapses on defense.  They can’t afford to lose a division game or else they will go from being a Super Bowl pick by many (including me regrettably right about now) to a team that will have a hard time reaching the playoffs.  Tennessee’s defense isn’t great and fits around the middle-of-the-pack.

Matt Says:  Indy 28-14 (IND -3.5)
Mike Says:  Tennessee

New Orleans Saints (0-2) at Carolina Panthers (2-0) . . . It’s looking more and more like a regime change may be coming in New Orleans.  Sure, the Saints have had plenty of success under Sean Payton, winning a Super Bowl, but starting quarterback Drew Brees is out with an injury and their defense has been hit for 57 points through two games.  Carolina’s defense, headed up by LB Luke Kuechly, has been much sharper in limiting its first two foes to just 26 points.  Look for Kuechly, QB Cam Newton and the Panthers to stay atop the NFC South, a division they’re trying to win for a third straight year.

Matt Says:  Carolina 20-13 (NO +9.5)
Mike Says:  Carolina

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) at Houston Texans (0-2) . . . Rookie quarterback Jameis Winston bounced back from a sluggish debut in a loss to Tennessee at home by leading his team to a road victory over New Orleans.  Can they actually win two in a row away from home and beat a J.J. Watt-led Texans team?  Houston’s pass rush has the ability to get under his skin in this one and set the offense up with good field position to keep from falling to 0-3.

Matt Says:  Houston 18-10 (HOU -6)
Mike Says:  Houston

Philadelphia Eagles (0-2) at New York Jets (2-0) . . . If somebody said this would be a 2-0 vs. 0-2 matchup before the season, most would’ve figured the Eagles would be 2-0 and the Jets 0-2.  That’s not the case as first-year Head Coach Todd Bowles, formerly the defensive coordinator in Arizona, has the Jets thinking playoffs.  Their secondary, headlined by Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, is playing like one of the best around.  Philly has more offensive talent than their NFC-East low 34 points would indicate, and now is the time that they must show it to keep from imploding.

Matt Says:  Philly 27-14 (PHI +3)
Mike Says:  Philly

San Diego Chargers (1-1) at Minnesota Vikings (1-1) . . . The Chargers have now won at Minnesota since 1993.  Meanwhile, the Vikings have won four straight at home.  This figures to be a battle where the Vikes lean on their running game with Adrian Peterson and San Diego relies on the passing attack with QB Philip Rivers.  On interesting sidebar is that the Vikings’ offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, used to be the Head Coach of San Diego.

Matt Says:  Minnesota 23-16 (MN -2)
Mike Says:  San Diego

Oakland Raiders (1-1) at Cleveland Browns (1-1) . . . Oakland has dropped 19 of its last 20 on the road.  Even with the Raiders performing well in their home win over the Ravens, that doesn’t bode well for them facing a Cleveland team that was opportunistic in beating Tennessee and has some underrated pieces on defense.  The Browns may be able to make one more play via their defense or special teams to edge out the Raiders to get to 2-1.

Matt Says:  Cleveland 21-20 (OAK +3.5)
Mike Says:  Cleveland

Atlanta Falcons (2-0) at Dallas Cowboys (2-0) . . . Life without Tony Romo officially begins for Dallas as the quarterback is on the shelf for a while due to injury and Brandon Weeden is the starter for now.  Matt Ryan is only 28-29 as a starter on the road for Atlanta and faces a Dallas defense that ranks second in the league in yards per play allowed at just 4.4.  On the flip side, are the Cowboys equipped to contain WR Julio Jones, who’s playing at a different level?

Matt Says:  Atlanta 31-24 (ATL PK)
Mike Says:  Atlanta

Buffalo Bills (1-1) at Miami Dolphins (1-1) . . . It’s safe to say that the Bills were humbled by New England last week, losing 40-32.  While Tyrod Taylor had three interceptions in that game, he has produced enough to maintain the starting job as he’s the first Bills signal caller to have four passing touchdowns and a rushing score through the first time two games since Joe Ferguson in 1975.  Jarvis Landry is quickly becoming a big-play weapon in the passing game and on returns for Miami, but the Dolphins will have to be at the top of their game defensive to contain Taylor, LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins.

Matt Says:  Buffalo 20-14 (BUF +1)
Mike Says:  Miami

San Francisco 49ers (1-1) at Arizona Cardinals (2-0) . . . Rather quietly, the Arizona Cardinals are developing into a threat in the NFC.  Carson Palmer is 18-6 as the team’s starting quarterback and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had somewhat of a re-birth in Chicago last week with three touchdown receptions to show that he’s not over-the-hill or on the decline.  San Francisco may be on the decline though; they went from a big Monday night win over Minnesota to get thumped in Pittsburgh.

Matt Says:  Arizona 28-10 (AZ -7)
Mike Says:  Arizona

Chicago Bears (0-2) at Seattle Seahawks (0-2) . . . Pretty easy to figure out why Seattle is favored by more than two touchdowns here in this spot.  They have star safety Kam Chancellor back after he missed the first two weeks of the season due to a contract holdout.  Chicago has struggled mightily thus far, and with Jimmy Clausen taking over for the injured Jay Cutler at quarterback, things probably won’t get much better going to noisy Seattle with their 12th man.

Matt Says:  Seattle 31-7 (SEA -16.5)
Mike Says:  Seattle

Denver Broncos (2-0) at Detroit Lions (0-2) . . . Even though Denver is 2-0, they could easily be 1-1 or 0-2 as they had to sweat out close wins over Kansas City and Baltimore in the previous weeks.  At home in front of a big TV audience on Sunday Night Football, the Lions have the ability to strike quick with their offense featuring QB Matt Stafford and stud receiver Calvin Johnson.  It might take a little of the old Peyton Manning gunslinger type, rather than the new game-manager, to win this on the road.

Matt Says:  Detroit 27-21 (DET +3)
Mike Says:  Denver

Kansas City Chiefs (1-1) at Green Bay Packers (2-0) . . . You know the Chiefs are still smarting from that Thursday Night Football home loss to Denver, where they led in the fourth quarter by a touchdown before two late scores did them in to drop to 1-1.  Green Bay has won nine straight at home and it doesn’t look like the loss of star receiver Jordy Nelson has slowed down Aaron Rodgers and the Pack attack that much.

Matt Says:  Green Bay 34-17 (GB -5.5)
Mike Says:  Green Bay

Matt Hat’s Hits:
LOCKS – NY Giants -3, New England -14, Seattle -16.5, Arizona -7 and Green Bay -6.5
UPSET SPECIALS – Philly SU & +3 and Detroit SU & +3

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