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Cincinnati Reds: Numbers behind Joey Votto’s amazing 2017 season

Published: Monday, October 02, 2017 @ 3:47 PM

Who is Joey Votto: Ten facts about Reds first baseman

Joey Votto’s season is over, but the Cincinnati Reds first baseman’s 2017 camptain will be remembered for a long time. 

Let us count the ways… 

  • The 34-year-old played all 162 games for the second time in his career and failed to get on base in only 12 of those appearances. In 107 games, he got on base at least twice. 
  • He reached base a major-league-high 321 times, breaking his own team record by two and leading Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon (second in the NL) by 33. 
  • Votto also led the majors in on-base percentage (.454), walks (134), intentional walks (20), and walk/strikeout ratio while batting .320 with 36 homers and 100 RBIs. 
  • The five-time All-Star became the first player in Reds history with at least 100 runs, 100 RBI, 300 total bases and 300 times on base. 

RELATED: Votto reveals the secret to his latest long run of success for the Reds

  • Votto’s fourth season with an OPS of at least 1.000 sets a club record. 
  • He led the NL in on-base percentage for the sixth time and is the active leader in that stat according to Baseball-Reference.com. He only trails Mike Trout in active OPS. 
  • Votto walked 26 more times than last season (108) while also cutting his strikeouts drastically from 120 to 83. 

RELATED: Check out what Reds All-Star did for 6-year-old cancer patient

Knowing all that, is it any wonder he called 2017 the best season of his career

"I wanted this to be my piece de resistance,” he told MLB.com on the last day of the season. “I wanted this to be my work of art. I felt like shrinking strikeouts, keeping the walks, competing on a daily basis, playing every day, improving my defense. I felt this was definitely the best year of my career."

The Canadian even got a few influential people talking about him as an MVP candidate, as unlikely as winning it on a last-place team might be

College football analyst Danny Kanell ranks Notre Dame at No. 6

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 9:18 AM

Notre Dame has mostly flown under the radar during the 2017 season. That figures to end this week after the Fighting Irish dismantled the formerly No. 11 USC Trojans, 49-14, on Saturday night.

Former ESPN College Football analyst Danny Kanell was one of the first figure heads to release his Top 8 rankings Sunday morning and ranked Notre Dame at No. 6.

The only loss the Fighting Irish have suffered this season was a 1-point defeat against Kanell’s No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs.

But if the Irish are to stay in that Top 8 and continue to move up, they will have to earn it. Even after facing rival USC, Notre Dame still has three ranked opponents remaining in its last five games, including the No. 7 team in Kanell’s rankings – the Miami Hurricanes on the road.

Michigan’s offense remains minimal with QB John O’Korn

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 9:13 AM

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Here’s the positive: Michigan quarterback John O’Korn improved from his last outing.

Here’s the negative: O’Korn was Michigan’s quarterback in its 42-13 loss Saturday at No. 2 Penn State.

Until Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh says otherwise, O’Korn will remain Michigan’s starting quarterback, despite the continued calls from the fan base to make Brandon Peters the starter, and despite the lack of pizzazz in the offense.

O’Korn finished with 166 yards on 16-of-28 passing, nearly tripling his output of 58 passing yards last weekend in a win at Indiana. But he bore the brunt of the offensive shortcomings, particularly those of the offensive line, as he was sacked seven times.

Michigan’s offense couldn’t keep up with the scorching pace Penn State set by scoring touchdowns on its first two drives. The Wolverines went three-and-out on their first two drives, accruing minus-5 yards rushing in the game’s first 5 minutes.

“Early on, especially the first two drives, we put our defense in a little bit of a hole,” O’Korn said. “Then, we were finally able to get things clicking and get things rolling. Halftime came and we were in the position to get the ball out at halftime. I think we were down eight [points]. We were right where we wanted to be.”

But, he added, “After starting slow we weren’t able to make enough big plays today to come out with the win.”

Michigan couldn’t match Penn State’s dynamic offense, spearheaded by quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley. Barkley strengthened his bid as a Heisman Trophy candidate with 3 touchdowns, including a highlight-reel scoring catch in the fourth quarter in which he bobbled the ball into the end zone.

Michigan had no answer for McSorley (282 yards passing), Barkley (176 all-purpose yards) or Penn State’s offense when it broke the game open in the fourth quarter.

While O’Korn showed more poise, he had little room to take chances to help Michigan make any substantial movement; Penn State loaded the box, which limited Michigan on the run and forced it to pass.

O’Korn did just enough to manage the game. Not to win the game, but to control the offense, which finished with a scant 269 yards. O’Korn’s longest throw was 24 yards, on third-and-7 from the Michigan 32-yard-line in the fourth quarter. That was also Michigan’s longest play.

The Wolverines gained an average of 3.8 yards a play against the Nittany Lions — who averaged 8.3 yards a play.

“We weren’t able to make big plays tonight,” O’Korn said. “We put drives together. We were moving the ball nicely. The big plays were just missing.”

LSU is totally different team with healthy Arden Key and Derrius Guice, which bodes well vs. Bama game

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 9:13 AM

OXFORD, Miss. — This is what a fully formed LSU team built around running back Derrius Guice and outside linebacker Arden Key is supposed to look like.

It looks like history, with Guice becoming the first running back in SEC history with three career games over 250 yards rushing.

It looks like pressure, with Key taking the teeth out of the SEC’s most potent passer on a pair of sacks and a hurry that put Shea Patterson into the arms of Christian LaCouture for another.

And it looks like energy, with the natural enthusiasm of LSU’s top playmakers spilling over to the other 10 players on the field.

Does all that look good enough to beat Alabama in two weeks?

Well, let’s not rain on the parade before it even hits the street. But the Tigers have to feel better about their chances in the annual monumental showdown than they did when Guice and Key were unable to produce in the manner everyone knew them to be capable of.

“Big plays fuel emotion,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “When you start running the football and getting sacks, playing LSU football, it gives everyone a lot of confidence. When the other team makes big plays, you get a little nervous.”

There weren’t many moments where LSU needed to bite its fingernails against the Rebels. As long as Guice was back there — and Darrel Williams too, for that matter — there wasn’t much to worry about.

Guice was the first to admit that his 22-carry, 276-yard performance was a long time coming. He hadn’t eclipsed the 100-yard barrier since LSU’s Week 2 game against Troy, and won’t allow his once-sprained knee to be used as an excuse for falling short.

“There ain’t no ‘Old Derrius,'” Guice said. “The way I’ve played this year, that’s me. Injured or not. There aren’t any excuses. It is what it is. … I’m not 100 percent. But I’m going to give my all for my team no matter how I’m feeling.”

If this still isn’t Guice at 100 percent, one can only grin at what might lie ahead after a bye week.

The same can be said of Key, who by far had his most productive game since his return from a spring semester leave of absence from the program and offseason shoulder surgery that kept him out of LSU’s first two games.

“I’d say Arden is at 1,000 percent,” said defensive tackle Greg Gilmore.

Cornerback Donte Jackson said Key’s impact cannot be understated. It’s not just the sacks. His presence also forces quarterbacks to make hurried decisions, and that means Patterson might not be the only quarterback who runs the risk of throwing 3 interceptions against the LSU defense.

“Arden’s a beast,” Jackson said. “We always knew he’d be back to his old self and that is what he’s doing. He’s getting back to himself and that’s what we need. We need quarterbacks and offensive linemen to fear that edge rusher. As a defensive back, that really is a great key.”

Really a great Key, and really a great Guice. LSU had both against Ole Miss. In two weeks, the same combination can give the Tigers a glimmer of hope.

Many positives for Auburn football at Arkansas, but not the positive fans want

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 9:13 AM

There’s no shortage of positives for Auburn football fans to take away from the Tigers’ 52-20 bludgeoning of Arkansas on Saturday night. The problem is that they can’t take away the positive they really  want.

That positive, of course, would be greater hope the Tigers can build on their performance in Fayetteville with enhanced offensive production against Texas A&M and — especially, particularly, desperately — Georgia. But after Auburn’s implosion against LSU last week, that ship hasn’t just sailed; that ship has its mainsail hoisted, its jib scuttled and is already halfway to Barbuda at a speed of a dozen knots.

It’s true: No less than your humble Auburn writer himself said after a similar destruction of Mississippi State that Tigers fans shouldn’t give up hope for better results against better competition, that willfully ignoring the good things Auburn did in the present to focus on the bad things Auburn would probably do in the future was too cynical. But that was before Baton Rouge, where an excuse-less Auburn showed once and for all that any amount of optimism entering one of the Tigers’ most meaningful games is too much optimism.

It’s a shame, because there truly were a  lot of positives from the Tigers’ second consecutive demolition of Bret Bielema’s Hogs. To wit:

Gus Malzahn made a concerted effort to correct the mistakes of the LSU debacle.  The Tigers consistently mixed up their play calls on first down, pointedly kicking the game off with a throw on Auburn’s first play from scrimmage; they flashed a long-missing willingness to go up-tempo when sensing they had Arkansas off-guard, leading to one of the most comical 15-yard touchdowns in SEC history; they ignored the temptation to nurse their lead in the third quarter, going so far as to uncork a picture-perfect Ryan Davis reverse pass; they even coaxed (or permitted) Jarrett Stidham into keeping on the zone read, finally grabbing the free yards that have been available on the same play call for weeks.

Even if every one of these developments felt “too little, too late,” seeing them Saturday remains far preferable to not seeing them at all.

Kamryn Pettway looked like something akin to 2016 Kamryn Pettway. The one-two punch Auburn expected to boast at tailback all season finally materialized, with Kerryon Johnson maintaining his post-September success and Pettway showing glimmers of the power and shiftiness that made him the SEC’s leading rusher less than 11 months ago. He might not be all the way back just yet, but he’s closer to back than he’s been since his (unnecessary) pounding against Mercer.

This Auburn defense kept doing the things this Auburn defense does. 6 sacks, 3 turnovers forced (and if you watched Jeff Holland and Co. hunting poor Cole Kelley in a manner more befitting of a nature documentary filmed on the African savanna, you know we  mean “forced,” under 5 yards allowed per play, 56 minutes played without conceding a Razorback touchdown.

Kevin Steele’s merry band of marauders has been a joy to watch all season. Nothing changed on that front Saturday.

Auburn’s cumulative two-season whipping of Arkansas finished at a final score of 108-23. Malzahn deserves every bit of the criticism he’s endured over the past week. But he also deserves  some credit for administering the hellacious beatings suffered at the Tigers’ hands by several SEC West rivals over the past two seasons. Ask Tennessee: Things could be much better on the Plains right now, but they could also be much, much worse.

Malzahn’s problem? Even the Auburn fans who know things could be better no longer believe they  will be. Yes, his team’s performance Saturday generated an abundance of positives. So did its performance against Memphis to end the 2015 season. So did its performances against Mississippi State and Arkansas last season. So did its performances against Mississippi State and Ole Miss this season.

To borrow an old line: We won’t be fooled again. Saturday was a blast. But it won’t mean anything until Malzahn proves it means something, in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 11.