Examining and Analyzing Sports the Way They Should Be

Alfredo Simon is not new to the Major League's. But his success this season is. Simon is 33 years of age and in his seventh season in the major league's, but one of the most surprising story lines of the baseball season has been well, surprising.

Simon struggled early in his career and pitched in only 19.1 innings in his first two major league seasons. In 2011, Simon pitched in 115.2 innings for the Baltimore Orioles, but was a putrid 4-9 with a 4.90 ERA.

Simon has pitched in 87.2 innings this season and is 9-3 in those 12 starts. If not for the dominance of Johnny Cueto, Simon would be the Reds' most consistent pitcher.

To put his 9 wins into perspective, Simon had 17 total wins coming into 2013-14, and nine already halfway through June.

Simon has a 2.95 Era and the lowest BABIP of his career. Simon is throwing less four seem fastballs. Instead he is throwing more two-seams fastballs, a pitch with natural movement coupled with velocity. He is throwing less sliders and relying more on his fastball and changeup.

But the question is can Simon keep up his early season success?

He is a career journeyman with no real success. And he's almost surpassed his inning total from last season. His age also is a strike against his resume and you would expect him to be more fatigued in August and September.

It is safe to say that Simon will not maintain the pace he is on. There is no reason to think that he will win 20 games this season. But it is safe to say Simon that Simon is in the midst of his best season as a professional.

-Ben Pickman

Francisco Rodriquez has waited almost six years to regain the elite form that made him the best reliever in baseball back in 2008.

In 2008, then with the Angels the 26 year old Rodriquez, was in the middle of the best stretch of his career. Coming off of an 2007 All-Star appearance, the man affectionately known as K-Rod, emerged as the best reliever in baseball. His 62 saves in 68.1 innings pitcher coupled with a 2.24 ERA helped Rodriquez not only make the All-Star team for what was then the third time of his career, but also was good enough for K-Rod to finish 3rd in the American League Cy Young Award voting.

But after 2008, K-Rod moved on to the Mets. And like with so many other talented players, the Mets did what the Mets usually do; make them worse. K-Rod was actually an All-Star in his first season in New York, but he regressed in 2010 and 2011 which prompted the Mets to trade the closer to the Milwaukee Brewers halfway through the 2011 season.

Rodriquez finished the 2011 season with the Brewers serving as the Brewers set-up man. In 2012, K-Rod again was the Brewers set-up man and to many pundits and fans alike, it looked like the K-Rod who was once regarded as one of the best closers in baseball was nothing more than a good reliever.  After starting the 2013 season with the Brewers, K-Rod was traded to the Baltimore Orioles where he finished the 2013 campaign.

This past offseason K-Rod signed a one year deal with the Brewers.  The Brewers seemed to like K-Rod but judging by the mere $ 3 Million dollar deal he was given, liked him to  be merely the set-up to Jim Henderson who was coming off of a breakout season and looked poised to maintain the  Brewers closer role.

Henderson had a bad Spring Training and K-Rod, now 32 years of age, has been the Brewers opening day closer ever since.

In 2014 K-Rod looks like the K-Rod of old. He has 20 saves which leads the major leagues and many of his statistics are similar to his stats from 2008.  But what has changed? For starters he is throwing more first pitch strikes. His 61.2 first pitch strike percentage is the best mark of his career since his rookie season  when he appeared in a mere five September games. Secondly, he's throwing more changeups and less curveballs.

When K-Rod was dominant in 2008, he threw a curveball only one percent of the time. But immediately his curveball percentage jumped to almost 20 percent from 2009-2013.

This season K-Rod is throwing curveballs only 15 percent of the time, the lowest mark of his career since 2008. Instead he's throwing more changeups, 29% of the time to be exact.

As a whole, he's throwing less pitches that are strikes and more pitches that look like strikes. His walk rate is down. And hitters are making less contact and when they do their batting average on balls in play is down.

Look for K-Rod to continue much of his early success this season and take note of the Brewers and their ninth inning man.

-Ben Pickman

Move over Andrei Kirilenko, Artem Kilmenko is about to be the new AK in the NBA. Kirilenko was drafted back in 1999 by the Utah Jazz. He did not join the team until two years later where he made NBA All-Rookie Team in his debut campaign. Kirilenko has made NBA All-Defensive Team three times and was a one time all-star back in 2004. In 2012, he led CSKA Moscow to the Euroleague final where he was the finals MVP and was an All-Euroleague First Team Selection. 
 Now 15 years later, another Russian hopes to be drafted. Artem Klimeno has the same initials as Kirilenko, but unlike AK47 Klimenko is a true 7 foot one inch center. Chad Ford says Klimenko is a huge big man and an excellent rebounder and shot blocker but that Klimenko lacks elite athletic ability and is very young and inexperienced. At only 20 years old Klimenko is very young and very raw, but is the perfect stash candidate for many NBA franchises. 
 He has the perfect size for an NBA center and combined with solid coordination and mobility, he could eventually become a true NBA center. He needs to develop a few low-post moves and gain some wait, but he projects to be a backup center at worse.
 -Ben Pickman

The Numbers:

The numbers don't do Draymond Green enough justice.

It's clear that he improved from his rookie season, but his regular season numbers from his second season are still very pedestrian: 6.2 points per game, 5.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists per game, 0.9 blocks, and 45 percent shooting percentage from the field. None of those numbers jump off the page.

That being said Green game grew immensely in the postseason where he averaged a near double-double — 11.9 points and 8.3 rebounds — and was one of the Warriors most important players in their hard-fought seven game series against the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Positives:

For those who are not aware, Draymond Green's Twitter handle is @Money23Green. But his Twitter handle might as well become @MoMoney23Green because once Green becomes a free agent his $ 875,000 salary is sure to skyrocket....


Keep Reading at BlueManHoop.com

-Ben Pickman 

The Atlanta Hawks were minutes away from defeating the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the NBA postseason. The Al Horford-less Hawks stifled the Pacers for seven games and thanks to breakout performances by Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, and Pero Antic almost defeated a far superior Pacers team.

Help might be on the way. One of their former first round picks Lucas Nogueira, a seven foot Brazilian center, is now a free agent facing the choice of coming to the Hawks or signing with a Euroleague team.

Nogueira seemed  to be unhappy with Estudiantes, his Spanish ACB club. Upon his contract ending Noguiera put out the following tweet.

Bom dia mundo , obrigado Jesus por mais uma oportunidade de poder desfrutar da vida e tentar novamente fazer as escolhas certas. 1dia
— Lucas Riva (@Lucasriva_bebe) May 25, 2014

Translated that says:

Good morning world, thank you Jesus for one more chance to enjoy life and try again, make the right choices. two more days

With Gustavo Ayon likely to depart via free agency, Noguiera seems like logical fit next fellow international bigman Pero Antic.

-Ben Pickman

James Michael McAdoo arrived in Chapel Hill to loads of expectations. Besides for his last name, the 6 foot 9 inch power forward's raw physical tools are part of what made him so attractive to the Tar Heels. Even though his height is only average for NBA power forward's he does have a 7 foot one inch wingspan and his strength and activity on defense is impressive.

But besides for his physical tools, McAdoo has shown very little during his time at UNC to make people think he could be a quality NBA player. McAdoo was once touted to be a lottery selection. Had he come out after his freshman year at UNC he would have been a top-15 pick.

Now, having just completed his junior season, McAdoo is a borderline second round pick. McAdoo's offensive game is very raw and inconsistent. He has consistently struggled with his jump shot. According to Synergy Sports, McAdoo made just 21 percent of his 51 jump shots from last season. The year before that, he attempted 96 jump shots and hit a mere 28 percent of them.

He does finish well around the rim, but without a consistent jump shots opposing NBA can sag off of him and not allow him to dominate during the pick-and-roll. He is a pretty average post player as well, which only adds another moment of mediocrity to his game.

Because of his frame he has the potential to be a good defender at the next level, but his offensive struggles seem to have been the cause of his draft stock plummeting.

It won't be surprising if McAdoo does get drafted late in the second round, but it also will not be surprising if the Carolina forward does not hear his name on draft night.

-Ben Pickman

Tom Izzo is an attractive NBA head coaching candidate. But with every passing year it seems like that's all Izzo will every be. A candidate.

This offseason with multiple head coaching opening up, Izzo was linked the Minnosota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavliliers, and Detroit Pistons jobs among others. Jerry Zgoda of the Star-Tribune wrote that Izzo was offered the same five year, $35 million offer to coach and run the Pistons that Stan Van Gundy accepted. Izzo also reportedly decline the Cleveland Cavaliers head coaching job.

If Izzo didn't like seven million a year and complete control of an NBA team that it is safe to say that the Michigan State coach will not be leaving East Lansing anytime soon.

-Ben Pickman

Erik Swoope never played a down of pop warner. He never took a snap during high school. He never saw the field in college. But that didn't stop the Indianapolis Colts from signing  Erik Swoope to a contract.

Erik Swoope was a power forward on the University of Miami basketball team the past four seasons. And after graduating this Spring, he is now a member of the Indianapolis Colts. Swoope a six foot five inch California native has never played organized football in his life, but he is one of the countless undrafted free agents the Colts signed this weekend.

Miami basketball coach Jim Larranaga informed his power forward that the Denver Broncos left a voicemail asking if Swoope had an interest in scheduling a workout before the draft. The Broncos took a chance on Julius Thomas and after multiple developmental seasons, the Portland State product blossomed into a star this past fall.

Swoope was planning on playing basketball overseas, but decided that he might as well try to play some professional football. Swoope hit the gym and did basic drills to improve his pass catching and route running. He worked out with Jimmy Graham and Jonathan Vilma, another Miami product.

Swoope is hoping to make the most of his opportunity, but is aware that he has a lot of learning to do before he can even think about playing a down on Sundays.

In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Swoope made his goals clear, "my goal is just to be a part of the Indianapolis Colts at the end of the summer. I would think practice squad because I have a lot of learning to do. But maybe later in the season I can get an opportunity and get a chance to play."

If Swoope does in fact make the Colts then there is no guarantee he plays a snap. Julius Thomas had only four catches in his first two seasons and Jimmy Graham and Antonio Gates, two other former collegiate basketball players, seldom played in their rookie seasons.

It won't be a huge surprise if Swoope becomes the next successful former collegiate basketball player turned tight end, but it would be if it happens next season. But Swoope said it himself, al he wants is the chance he never previously had.

-Ben Pickman

Later this month the Euroleague Final Four  tips off in Milan, Italy. Like the NCAA Final Four, the Euroleague Final Four is supposed to consistently feature the four best teams in Europe. But much like the NCAA tournament every year there are team's that go on Cinderella runs to make it to the Final Four. And while Maccabi Eletra Tel Aviv, the best team in Israel, is not the definition of a  Cinderella, they were not supposed to make it to Milan.

But thanks to dominant play from Ricky Hickman and Alex Tyus, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv was able to knock off EA7 Emporio Armani Milan 3-1 in their best of five playoff series. Let's focus on Alex Tyus for now.

Tyus has emerged as a star for Macabbi Electra Tel Aviv during their run to the Final Four. The 6 foot 9 inch power forward grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and attended the University of Florida from 2008-11. Tyus, a three year starter, averaged 11.8 points and 6.9 rebounds in his junior seasons but showed little progression during his senior season which is one of the reasons why an NBA future was not in the cards. Tyus is a bit undersized at the power forward position in the United States, but after a slow start to his European career has come on of late. Tyus averaged 13.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in the playoffs against EA7 Emporio Armani Milan.  He wad first in blocks, first in two pointers made and second in field goal percentage shooting 75 percent from the field.

In the top 16, the round that precedes the playoffs and is like the second half of the regular season  just with only 16 teams making it out of the 32 who begin the season in October, Tyus was first in true shooting percentage and shot an incredible 80.3 percent from the field.

After averaging only ten minutes in the regular season and twenty in the Top 16, Tyus  averaged 25 minutes per game against Milan and his minute total should only continue to go up thanks to his production. Tyus has learned under Sofoklis Schortsantitis, a massive Greek center who comes in at 6 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 350 pounds. Schortsantitis is nearing the end of his more than decade long career in Europe but has helped Tyus develop a more consistent low-post game as well as help him become a more dominant defensive force in the paint.

Tyus turns 27 next January so it is unlikely that he will ever reach the NBA, but don't be surprised if the former Florida Gator becomes a household name oversees thanks to what will surely be a dominant Final Four performance.

-Ben Pickman

Lefteris Bochoridis is already viewed as one of the best Greek basketball players in the world. The 20 year old guard who most recently played for Aris Thessaloniki declared for the NBA Draft in late April but likely needs more time to develop his game in Europe before making the jump to the NBA.

Many people in Greece are calling Bochoridis the new Diamantidis referring to the European great Dimitris Diamantidis who is one of the best Greek basketball players ever. Diamantidis never made the jump to the NBA but may thought that back in his prime Diamantidis could have been a very good NBA player.

That all bodes well for Bochoridis in the long run. The young Greek star is yet to achieve the kind of success that Diamantidis has had, but Bochoridis is likely to make the jump to either Olympiakos or Panathinaikos, two of the best clubs in all of Europe, this summer according to Sportando.

In an interview with Sportando Bochoridis said that it is his dream to one day play in the NBA, but added that he is unsure if he can currently make an NBA impact in the near future.

Expect Bochoridis to be a second round stash pick in the 2014 NBA draft allowing the young Greek guard to develop a more well rounded repertoire.

-Ben Pickman