Monday, May 6, 2019

Cody Parkey Challenge Day Three: Tonight is the night, when two become three!

Man I can't believe how many changes have happened in this kicker battle.  See posts one and two if you need to catch up.

Today the Bears made a move to further help their kicker position, trading a conditional 2021 7th rounder to the Raiders for Eddy Piniero.  The pick goes to the Raiders if Piniero is on the Bears active roster for five games.  Otherwise it doesn' Piniero for nothing.  Conditional trades are weird.

So who is Eddy Piniero?  He was an undrafted free agent out of Florida who was with the Raiders last preseason.  He made all three of his field goals as well as his one extra point, so he's the closest to NFL experience that the Bears have on their roster at the kicking position right now.  He was placed on the injured list with a groin injury before the season began though, so he never actually kicked in a regular season game.

That being said, he's supposedly quite good.  He was rated as one of the top kickers in the 2018 draft, and was probably going to start for the Raiders before his injury.  In two college seasons, he went 37/43 on field goal attempts, a very solid 86%.  So you have to figure he's the favorite in the Bears kicker race now.  I'll switch up my rankings to put Bryant first (Because proven veteran), Piniero second, and Fry third.  Blewitt is a distant, distant, distant fifth.  Behind Casey Bednarski, because I want that dude to kick all the field goals.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Cody Parker Challenge Day Two - Two Kickers Remain!

I wrote yesterday's post under the idea that it might take the Bears some time to find their kicker from the eight who were at tryouts the other day.  However, news came today that the Bears waived two kickers, Redford Jones and John Baron II (Who apparently had a contract as well) and that only two kickers are left: Chris Blewitt and Elliott Fry.

The Bears apparently had a mini competition today, where the kickers were given different attempts to make in head-to-head combat.  Blewitt and Fry looked okay, as apparently did Spencer Evans, but it was Jones and Casey Bednarski who ended up in the finals.  Both guys hit from 32, and both hit from 43, and Bednarski hit from 48 but Jones went wide left.  Bednarski did a backflip in celebration and the offense did updowns as punishment, further cementing Bednarski as a total badass and my favorite free agent kicker in the NFL.  Yet the Bears didn't offer Bednarski a contract and then cut go figure.

I still stand by my rankings from yesterday, which had Matt Bryant (Who is still out there as a free agent) as #1 and Fry as #2, so Fry wouldn't be a bad winner at all.  I predicted that Blewitt might get a little more run with Jamie Kohl as a Bears consultant, and it looks like that might be somewhat true.  Based on challenges/experience, it feels like 5-6 kickers have outkicked Blewitt so far, but he still remains.  My rooting interests are with Fry for now though.  Let's hope that happens, or that the Bears get wise and actually sign Matt Bryant!

Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Cody Parker Challenge: My thoughts

If you've been here since my early days, you know I've got a love for all things special teams.  Kick returns, kickers, punters...all up my alley.  I'm even in a yearly fantasy league where we have punters.  Special teams are the best.

So I've been following this Chicago Bears kicking situation pretty closely.  If you've been under a rock, the basics of this situation are as follows:
1. The Bears cut Robbie Gould at the end of 2016.
2. The 2017 Bears have three kickers who go a combined 16/22 on attempts.  Yuck.
3. The 2018 Bears decide to remedy this situation by signing Cody Parkey to a multi-year deal, who had hit 91.3% of his field goals in Miami the year before.
4. Parkey hits 76.7% of his regular season field goals before missing/having blocked what should've been an easy-ish field goal to lose the playoffs.  Fans call for his head.  Parkey then goes on the Today show to talk about it.  Fans are even more pissed.
5. The Bears cut Parkey and start an open competition for his spot.

So that's where we're kind of at.  I've been monitoring the situation to see what happens, and figured a Robbie Gould trade might be in the works, especially since he's asked for a trade out of San Francisco recently.  But that hasn't happened, which makes today's news that the eight kickers in camp that only 2/8 kickers in camp passed the Cody Parkey Challenge (A kick from 43 yards out) the other day particularly juicy.  So juicy that it made me want to look at the kickers involved, see their chances, and talk about any free agents out there who might be better ideas!  So below are my thoughts.

The 2/8 who made the challenge:
John Baron II - Invited to kick as an undrafted free agent a week ago out of San Diego State.  Baron is a lefty kicker who went 50/60 on attempts over his college career, but just 17/22 (A Parkey-ian 77%) last year.  His NFL Draft profile also notes that he's not weather tested and that he hit just 66% of his attempts between 30 and 45 yards last year.  Not great for a lefty kicker, which in and of itself is a big adjustment for most special teams units.

Spencer Evans - Also invited to kick as a UFA, out of Purdue (Spent two years there after beginning college at Purdue).  Evans is a more traditional righty kicker, who was 26/34 lifetime at Purdue (76%).  His longest field goal last year was just 41 yards, but he did hit a 49 yarder during his first year at Purdue.  He's a little limited in experience, what with the transfer and a Junior year where he alternated kicks with J.D. Dellinger for the entirety of the season.  He's shown a big leg on kickoffs though, so the leg strength might be there for Evans.  Very hard to know.

The 6/8 who missed:
Redford Jones - Jones was signed in January, really soon after Parkey's big miss.  He's out of Tulsa, where he hit 74.6% of field goals (Long of 51) over a three year career that ended in 2017.  I can't really find a lot more on him, but he was the first kicker in the door, so he's got that going for him, which is nice.  I also read from a local writer or two that he has been one of the more impressive kickers in camp so far.

Chris Blewitt - The second kicker signed to an actual contract, during March.  Blewitt was a four year starter at Pitt, was in camp with the 2017 Steelers on a tryout basis, but has been looking for a job ever since.  His 69.6% rate at Pitt does not look great, but a career long of 56 yards does, and he turned a few heads recently after performing well at industry great Jamie Kohl's kicking camp.  That got him the Bears signing, and it's interesting to note that the Bears also signed Jamie Kohl himself as a kicking consultant yesterday.  Blewitt is listed on their site, so you have to wonder if this gives him a leg up on the competition, even with yesterday's miss and his unfortunate last name.

Elliott Fry - Fry has the most professional experience of this bunch, as he just went a perfect 14/14 (Long of 44 yards) for the Orlando Apollos of the short lived AAF.  He also is on contract, one that's technically three years, not that that means anything in today's age of non-guarantees (He was signed in April after the NFL was finally allowed to sign AAF players).  Finally, I love oddball league castoffs, and would love to see Fry pull a Rod "He Hate Me" Smart or Tommy Maddox, so he's my rooting interest here.  He hit 75% of his college field goals along with 161/162 extra points, so his consistency numbers seem to be in line with the best of this list so far.  It's also worth noting that several Bears beat writers have mentioned Fry as one of the top contenders so far, and that he did hit a 43 yard field goal under pressure prior to the final kick.

Casey Bednarski  - Definitely has the best hair in this contest.  Bednarski was invited as a UFA out of Minnesota State Mankato, a D2 school.  He has a huge leg, as measured by his school record 63 yard field goal in September of 2017.  His accuracy is okay overall, with 40/50 field goals hit during college, but he hit only 65% last year, so the jury is out on that.  His leg is definitely strong though, and I get major Sebastian Janikowski vibes.  I've read that he's the best looking kicker of the invitees to date.  He also kicked in a cold weather spot, which has got to look good to the Chicago brass.

Emmit Carpenter - Carpenter kicked for the Minnesota Golden Gophers in college, where he his 53/67 field goals (79%).  Doing that on 67 attempts (More than most of the list) is nice, and shows quite a bit of consistency from Carpenter.  He also hit several field goals over 50 yards last year with a long of 53 yards.  Definitely seems like a contender here, contracts and kick makers be damned.

Justin Yoon - The final camp invite, Yoon kicked for Notre Dame the past few years.  He was the number two kicking recruit in the nation going into Notre Dame, and brought this to Notre Dame with a 59/73 career rate (80%), best on this list.  Basically he's a slightly more consistent version of Emmit Carpenter who attempted a few less long field goals (I count just one field goal over 50 yards over four years, though plenty over 40 yards).  He and Carpenter were added to the list of invitees later, but with both guys having many more kicks under their belt than the rest of the bunch, you have to wonder if they'll rise to the top given time.

Non-camp veterans to consider:
Matt Bryant was a Pro Bowler as recently as 2016, and hit 95.2% of his field goals (Including a 57 yarder) in last year's 13 game, injury-shortened season.  He'd be a no-duh add for the Bears, although they don't seem interested at the moment, possibly due to a lot of his kicking taking place in a dome in recent years and his likely desire for a multi-year contract.

Kai Forbath has been a journeyman for basically his entire career, including going 4/5 last year for the Jaguars.  He did hit 89% of his field goals during 2016-17 with the Vikings, but they still moved on.  I think he's a great kicker, and I think the Bears would do well with him.

Everyone else is either pretty inconsistent or Cody Parkey.  So I'll end the list here.

That all being said, who do I think should win the job as of now?
1. Matt Bryant - He's old, but he's way better than anything else out there.  Sign the man, even if it takes a few years.
2. Elliott Fry - He's a little battle tested, and he's got the AAF connection.
3. Emmit Carpenter/Justin Yoon - They're looking for consistency, and these guys definitely have that, with me probably giving a slight edge to Carpenter with him having a bit more success from 50+.
5. Casey Bednarski - Badass kickers are cool.  He's hit a 70 yarder in practice before and could probably beat up your Dad.

I'll try to update this every week or so with updates on the situation.  Hopefully it'll be a glorious journey!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

A few new (ish) cards and some bobbleheads. Hey I'm still here!

Hey everyone!  Remember when I used to blog?  Me too!  It's been a minute, partially tied into not having a laptop that isn't work related and lots of time spent on the XBox.  Recent times have made me want to post some cards though, so I finally decided too.  Here's a few!

The first is a nice Shyrone Stith card that I got for Christmas.  It was kind of on hold with a friend of a friend for a while, but I stopped buying for a bit.  It was still there though, so now it's mine!
 Cool because it's 13/20.  Super rare!

Going off cards, I was a HUGE Backyard Baseball fan as a kid.  A minor league baseball team did a Backyard Baseball night, and I mentioned it to my family because we all loved it and I thought it was cool.  My Dad went one step beyond and got us all the bobblehead for the night - the always epic Pablo Sanchez.  This thing is so cool.

I figured I'd add more bobbleheads to this post too, as I got a few for Christmas.  One was collection related...former XFLer Rod Smart (RIP AAF).

And another was also collection related...Jose Celestino Lopez!

Finally, we have a reallllly late post from Dennis of Too Many Manninghams/Verlanders/blogs.  He send me some goofy stuff, along with this Seneca Wallace card.  I already owned a copy, but this card is one of my favorite non-auto/relics of Senecas, so I was happy to add it to the family.  Thanks Dennis!

See you guys again in 2020!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A cool card of a guy who didn't deserve the vote in 1993

There weren't a lot of defenders of Deivi Cruz, and probably rightfully so.  This next guy will definitely have some backers though, as he was definitely a fan favorite in his time and only really belongs on this list because of his defense.

Today's player: Cecil Fielder

In 1990, Cecil Fielder came back to MLB from Japan and hit a league leading 51 homeruns.  He finished 2nd in MVP voting that year, and ended up receiving MVP votes over his next four years (Actually the only four years where he received votes).  Here were his homers and WAR numbers over those four years:

1990 - 51 homers, 6.5 WAR
1991 - 44 homers, 3.7 WAR
1992 - 35 homers, 2.7 WAR
1993 - 30 homers, 0.6 WAR

Now those are just two numbers, and if you look at the deeper stats, Fielder was actually a better overall hitter in 1993 than in 1992.  But his defense was a career worst in 1993, which absolutely sunk his WAR.  It wasn't until 1995 that teams finally started playing him at DH to maximize his ability.  So in 1993, even though he had a great offensive season, his value was minimized by what he gave back in the field.

All that said, as will happen with some of these posts, Cecil Fielder was not a bad player in 1993, and there's certainly an argument there for him to get the one vote he did, even if just based on homer total and his previous success.  But there were more deserving guys out there in 1993, as you'll see below.

The card:

I used to collect 1995 Topps (And it's Cyberstats parallel where they projected 1994 as if it was a finished season), and Cecil Fielder's card was always one of my favorites.  I can't put a finger on exactly why...but I definitely think it's pretty neat.  I'm pretty sure he just swung a bat and is waiting to see what happens, but it also looks like maybe he's leading off a base or something as well.  I would love to know what happened immediately after this photo was taken.

A random rookie more deserving of the award: David Hulse.  Yet another guy I've never heard of.  Hulse finished 8th/last in AL Rookie of the Year voting with 2.8 WAR as a Rangers centerfielder.  He didn't hit for power, but he had a good average, good speed, and decent defense, which all combined for a pretty valuable 1993.  Interestingly, Hulse's career WAR on Baseball Reference is 1.5.  After combining for 3.4 WAR in an abbreviated 1992 and full 1993, he went -1.9 for the rest of his career, as his batting average and OBP plummeted.  So not the best finish to a career for Mr. Hulse.

A second guy who deserved it because I found those 1993 Blue Jays fascinating: Juan Guzman.  Guzman finished 7th/last in the AL Cy Young voting with one vote despite a 14-3 record and 3.99 ERA in 33 starts.  While that's pretty good (Good enough for a 3.4 WAR), he was beaten out for MVP votes by five other Jays (Paul Molitor, John Olerud, Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter, and Duane Ward).  Man that team was stacked.