MILWAUKEE (AP) — St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt was suspended one game for his role in a bench-clearing fracas in Milwaukee, and was set to miss the nightcap of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Brewers.
Major League Baseball announced the penalty about 35 minutes before the Cardinals and Brewers met in the opener at Miller Park.
Shildt was suspended and fined an undisclosed amount ”for actions that contributed to inciting the benches-clearing incident” in the fifth inning of an 18-3 loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday night.
The Cardinals and Brewers, both under .500 but competing for spots in the expanded playoff field, tangled with Milwaukee leading 13-2.
Shildt and Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell were ejected, soon after Brewers star Ryan Braun was awarded first base on a rare catcher’s interference call against Yadier Molina.
Shildt came off the bench to examine Molina’s left arm, then he and the All-Star catcher approached the Milwaukee dugout and exchanged words with Brewers players. Players from both teams’ dugouts and bullpens massed in front of the Milwaukee bench.
”I go to check on him and make sure he’s OK and hear something out of the (Brewers) dugout,” Shildt said after the game. ”We don’t start things, but we’re not going to take it. Heard something I didn’t appreciate. I will always have our players’ backs.”
Said Counsell: ”Apparently there was a little miscommunication between (Shildt) and our dugout, him and me, I should say, him and me.”
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Projections to help with sit-start decisions
With a healthy dash of context, it could be helpful — actionable, even — to know how a defense is being attacked.
Are opposing offenses peppering the middle of the field against a certain defense, leading to a glut of tight end opportunity? Are wide receivers having their way against a defense, commanding a massive target share? Are running backs seeing plenty of dump off opportunities against a particular defense?
These are questions I’ll address in this space, examining which positions are seeing the most opportunity against a certain defense in an exercise that might serve as the tiebreaker in your agonizing start-sit decisions.
We’re going to glean from 2019 target data to start, but with every passing week, our understanding of how offenses are going after defenses should improve. Context will be key, as a bunch of targets to Travis Kelce doesn’t mean Tyler Eifert is going to see the same kind of opportunity against the same defense. If only it were that easy.
These numbers are compiled weekly by my lovely Living The Stream co-host, JJ Zachariason.
Devin Singletary (Buffalo Bills) vs. Raiders: In 12-team leagues, you might be torn on using Singletary in the flex this week after he got the backfield gig to himself in Week 3 and failed to cap off an otherwise productive day with a touchdown. Fantasy managers in 10-team leagues might not consider Singletary this week, depending on roster construction. But wait!
Singletary’s peripherals, even with rookie Zack Moss in the lineup, have been encouraging, bordering on spectacular. In Week 1, he out-snapped Moss 59 percent to 45 percent, seeing seven targets to Moss’ four, and running 26 routes to Moss’ 20 routes. Yeah, Moss caught the touchdown. The opportunity belonged to Singletary though. In Week 2, Singletary again out-snapped, out-targeted, and ran more routes than the rookie. Moss, in fact, didn’t run a single route that week, seeing eight carries to Singletary’s 10.
With Moss out of the Buffalo lineup last week, Singletary drew five targets (16 percent target share) while running the fifth most routes among running backs (36). TJ Yeldon went without a target and got three totes. That’s a long winded way of saying that even if Moss is activate for Week 4 against the Raiders, Singletary looks an awful lot like the primary pass-catching back for the Bills.
Running backs have seen 32.3 percent of the targets against the Raiders through Week 3. Only the Panthers have allowed a bigger target share to backs. You may furrow your brow and say, but wait dear fantasy analyst, didn’t the Raiders play Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara in the season’s opening weeks? You would be correct, dear fantasy analysis consumer. But CMC saw just four targets against the Raiders in Week 1. Kamara had nine targets in Week 2, and perhaps most tellingly, Rex Burkhead saw 10 targets against Vegas in Week 3. Patriots backs totaled 14 targets against the Silver and Black. No defense has been beat for more running back receiving yards than the Raiders.
Vegas linebacker Cory Littleton has been taken advantage of by opposing runners this year, allowing 14 receptions on 19 targets for 130 yards. All of five linebackers have given up more catches this season. Vegas linebacker Nicholas Morrow has been less terrible, giving up six catches on 12 targets for 59 yards and a touchdown. Singletary could continue the running back pass-catching onslaught against Vegas if he gets matched up with Littleton. He should see solid opportunity either way.
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Dalton Schultz (Dallas Cowboys) vs. Browns: A mere six tight ends ran more pass routes than Schultz last week against Seattle. In Week 2, only seven tight ends ran more routes than Schultz. He’s a mainstay in a high-powered offense that averages a league-high 76.7 offensive snaps per game. It’s hard to ask for much else from a fantasy tight end plucked off the waiver wire two weeks ago.
Schultz, with 16 targets (16 percent of the Cowboys’ target share) over his two games as starter, gets a prime matchup this week against Cleveland. Nearly 26 percent of targets against the Browns this year have gone to tight ends — the fifth highest rate in the league. That comes out to 31 tight end targets over three weeks. Only the Saints and Falcons have allowed more tight end receptions than the Browns.
It didn’t amount to much, but last week Logan Thomas had seven targets against the Browns, finding himself open on most of those looks. He didn’t get many catchable balls from Dwayne Haskins, infuriatingly enough.
Opponents using their tight ends against Cleveland is hardly a mystery: the team has struggled to fill injury gaps at safety and linebacker, leaving backups and special team players to cover tight ends. Safety Andrew Sendejo has been targeted seven times, resulting in five receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown. Fellow safety Karl Joseph has given up seven grabs for 59 yards and a score on just eight targets. Meanwhile, Browns linebacker B.J. Goodson is the most targeted linebacker in the NFL, allowing 18 catches for 167 yards and a touchdown on 25 targets through three weeks. Schultz will likely see coverage from some combination of Goodson, Joseph, and Sendejo this Sunday.
Dallas has an implied total of 29.75 points. Good process says we play tight ends on teams with high totals. Let’s go.
Greg Ward (Philadelphia Eagles) at 49ers: It’s something less than fun to tout a guy catching passes from Carson Wentz, but here I am, doing just that.
Despite their best efforts to improve their receiver grouping this season, the Eagles are once again left with Ward as the presumed No. 1 option. We saw Ward last week command a 25 percent target share, the 11th highest of Week 3. The converted quarterback ended up with 72 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals while running 46 routes, more than all but six wide receivers in Week 3.
Ward in Week 4 goes against a 49ers defense that’s seen 68 percent of opponents’ targets go to wideouts. Only two teams — Seattle and Philadelphia — have a higher rate. It’s not quite the opportunity that it might seem because the 49ers are allowing 63 offensive plays per game, the ninth lowest in the NFL.
I’m not sure we can put much stock in the Giants’ Week 3 performance against the Niners. The entire New York offense was a raging dumpster fire — an unholy sight that should inspire a new horror movie franchise. Their main wideouts, Darius Slayton and Golden Tate, each saw a meager seven targets. It wasn’t so bleak in Week 2, when the practice squad guys playing receiver for the Jets saw 25 targets against the 49ers. Arizona receivers, led by DeAndre Hopkins, saw 27 targets against the Niners on the opening Sunday.
Alshon Jeffrey is expected to miss another week in his long, slow comeback from offseason foot surgery. DeSean Jackson is banged up, as per usual. Jalen Reagor is out for at least another month. That leaves Ward and rookie John Hightower — who ran more routes than Ward in Week 3 — as the team’s lone healthy wideouts. With the Eagles likely to face heaps of negative game script (they’re 7 point road underdogs) this week, you could do worse than Ward as a flex play in deeper formats.
C.D. Carter is co-host of Living The Stream, owner of DraftDayConsultants.com and author of fantasy football books, including How To Think Like A Fantasy Football Winner. He can be found on Twitter @cdcarter13. He never logs off.
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Josh McDaniels explains how he’s rebuilt the playbook around Cam Newton’s strengths
When the New England Patriots gave the starting quarterback job to Cam Newton, they were committing to building an offense around him.
That’s how New England does it. Bill Belichick insinuated as much when he said in Sept. that “everything we’ve done for the last 20 years, and rightfully so, was for Tom Brady.” A similar logic applies to their next quarterback, Newton. They’ll make their offensive decisions around him. But because Newton and Brady have some significant differences in their style of play, the Patriots have had to morph their offense.
“It’s different,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels told reporters on Tuesday. “There’s certainly a huge chunk of what we’ve been able to try and do in the past that we continue to try and do. You take certain strengths of each player and in this particular case we’re talking about the quarterback. You take the strengths of the players that you have and you try to put them in the positions to be successful that they have the most confidence in.
“Whether it is some version of an adjustment in the running game, some ability to use his legs or his size and strength, we’ve tried to do some of all of that. At the same time, the most important thing for us and for Cam, is to run the offense.”
There is overlap between the offense that Newton runs and the one Brady ran. McDaniels noted that Newton will need to execute the same fundamentals that Brady did. That means that some plays will be identical. But he and Newton are working together to make sure the offense is the best it can be every week as New England designs their custom game plan for each opponent.
“I think the development, even though he’s played in the league a long time, I think the development of this year for him as a player and our team as an offense, is far from over. Really enjoying the process. I look forward to every day I get to coach him and he obviously reciprocates that with his effort and the time he spends trying to prepare himself for the game.”
Is 16 playoff teams the right number for baseball?
Nelson Cruz thinks it’s the best thing Major League Baseball could do to grow the game. He said that, direct quote. That’s how much he loves the 2020 postseason format, which kicked off this week with 16 teams — up from 10 the previous eight years — facing off in a seeded best-of-three before even reaching the division series.
“It’s incredible,” said the 40-year-old Bomba Squad slugger.
After a 60-game regular season, a 16-team field for October was implemented as a way to give more baseball to broadcast partners and another month of games to more fanbases. It’s sort of a concession to a summer dominated by a global pandemic, but if it proves lucrative and popular (or at least lucrative) it could pave the way for a permanently expanded postseason. The details of that would almost certainly look a little different than what’s about to unfold, and would be subject to collective bargaining with the MLB Players Association.
But if you ask Cruz, they hardly need to bother.
“Hopefully next year they implement the same protocols and we have 16 teams in the two leagues,” he said. “There will be more teams willing to go all the way because they feel like they have a shot to go to the playoffs. That’s the whole deal you know. And once you’re in the playoffs anything can happen.”
MLB is marketing the unpredictable nature of a crowded month-long tournament as a boon of this unprecedented format. But for top teams, the crowded competition and highly variable short series at the outset just introduces the possibility that Cruz’s Minnesota Twins, who won their division, will be bounced from October in just a couple of games by a Houston Astros team that finished the regular season with a losing record. ESPN calculated that the Twins’ odds of winning the World Series are about 3 percentage points less than they would be under the previous format; only the Dodgers suffer more from the expansion.
Cruz said that he welcomes the change, even still.
“Yes, if you love the game, you should be thrilled for the situation that we’re in right now.”
‘They just wanted more baseball’
“With the 60-game season, you see some records and you’re like, ‘Wow they made the playoffs?’” said Marcus Semien, whose A’s are the American League’s No. 2 seed after going 36-24.
They face the seventh-seeded White Sox, who finished 35-25 — just one game worse and tied for second in their division except that this year, rather than play a Game 61, tiebreakers were determined by season series and intra-division records. Those are more concessions to the coronavirus, and help to justify why the playoff field is 60 percent larger than ever: Teams barely had time to separate themselves from the pack.
[ Check out our favorite MLB playoff gear from Breaking T ]
The party line, based on an informal poll of players and managers made available over Zoom, is that this is, at least partially, fan service. After being forced to deny the public baseball for months at the outset of the summer, MLB is dumping all-day postseason action on viewers now to make up for that.
“I think that they just wanted more baseball this year,” Semien said. “They tried to give the fans more baseball.”
In fact, the fan service extends back into the regular season.
“You look at the last few weeks and you look at the excitement surrounding our game,” said Michael Hill, the Marlins’ president of baseball operations. “You know, all of the races that were going up to the last pitch, to the last hour, just create a sense of excitement for multiple markets in our industry.”
The Marlins surprised everyone by securing a No. 6 seed and a winning record one year after losing 105 games and mere weeks after they were the first team to experience a major COVID-19 outbreak. In prior years they would have either been the second wild-card team or just missed the playoffs (depending on what would have happened in the Cardinals’ final few games, had they been required, and any subsequent tiebreakers). They also just might not have gone for it.
“There was more excitement at the trade deadline because there were more teams being active, trying to improve their rosters and improving their chances of getting to the playoffs,” said Hill, who added Starling Marte to the Marlins at the deadline.
“I think the fact that the more chances to get involved or the more excitement you create, the more markets that you have involved and following our sport,” he said. “I think that can be nothing but good things for our game, in my opinion.”
A competitive balancing act
Not everyone agrees. First of all, the fantasy that every fan loves this reflects how little time baseball players and personnel spend on Twitter (good job, guys), where commentators on the sport decry a degradation in competitive integrity and a dilution of the regular season’s value. Those people probably represent a vocal minority who care about the sport as a whole compared to the fans who follow a single team and just wanna see their city have a shot at the championship.
But the criticisms are valid, including those coming from a surprising contingent within the game: teams that wouldn’t even be asked to weigh in if not for the new structure.
“Some teams that are in the postseason probably shouldn’t be in the postseason. There’s a chance that we fall into that category,” said Trevor Bauer, who will start the first game for the Cincinnati Reds, a No. 7 seed that looks especially well-positioned to upset the No. 2 seed Atlanta Braves because of their rotation strength.
“I think in other years and in the traditional format, we probably wouldn’t have made it,” Bauer said. “So, it’s good in the sense that there’s been a lot of interest, and I also think that at some point teams that don’t perform as well in the regular season probably shouldn’t be rewarded with a postseason berth.”
The Milwaukee Brewers secured the NL’s No. 8 seed on the last day of the regular season despite a loss. They advanced to the postseason despite finishing 29-31 (one of two losing records, of which the Astros are the other). Manager Craig Counsell said the 16-team format makes sense for this shortened season — but he wouldn’t want to keep it.
“I would advocate either less teams in a full season or a much bigger reward for having a good regular season,” he said. “One of the best things we do is that we have an incredibly difficult regular season. And to me, if you get through that, you have to be rewarded for it. And if you play well through that whole thing, you absolutely should be rewarded for it. And we didn’t play 162 games, but this format does not reward that.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred is reportedly looking to address that in future Octobers. He floated the idea of a 14-team postseason that includes a first-round bye for the team with the best record in each league. It will have to be collectively bargained with the union, which will be paying attention to how any new postseason format will incentivize, or not, teams to build and pay for the best possible roster.
“I can see it helping the industry in some ways,” Bauer said. “Having such a high threshold for making the postseason means the choice to tank is easier. If more teams are able to get into the postseason then your competitive balance in the league probably improves. But it’s unclear still to me how teams may approach that, whether getting into a wild-card game and losing in the first round is really worth the reduction in draft-pick compensation or the position of the draft.”
All of those considerations and more will be hotly debated in this offseason and those to come as the league, teams, players and fans debate the best way to crown a champion and air a whole bunch of high-stakes, highly profitable postseason games en route to doing so.
But first, they’ll play it this way. Sixteen teams, no advantage for the first-place finishers.
“If you’re a fan, I would think you gotta like it,” said Kevin Cash, manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, who emerged with the AL’s best record this year.
Fans, sure, but what about the No. 1 seed that could be bounced before October even starts, do they gotta like it?
“We don’t have a choice,” Cash said. “Just go play.”
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