You may want to hold off on solidifying your viewing party plans for the 2014 NFL Draft.
Yesterday, at the NFL Spring Meeting in Boston, Mass., NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed that next year’s draft will be held in May as opposed to the end of April, due to a scheduling conflict with New York City’s Radio City Music Hall – where the draft itself is held.
“If we want to move the draft back into the April period, we’re going to have to look at other alternatives. Other cities, other venues,” Goodell said at the spring meeting.
That’s because Radio City Music Hall has plans for a spring show that could conflict with the timing of the draft for several years to come.
“We haven’t found the location in New York that meets our requirements and where we think we can continue to grow the event,” Goodell said. “If we do, that will be one of the alternatives. I think one of the things we have to do at some point is start looking at other cities.”
Proposed dates for the 2014 NFL Draft could be May 8-10, or May 15-17 – a full 2-3 weeks after the draft has traditionally fallen in the past.
Moving the draft back could affect several other NFL offseason dates, surely moving each team’s rookie minicamp deeper into the month of May, and likely altering when team’s start their period of Organized Team Activities (OTAs).
A look at a memorable moment in Seahawks history that occurred on May 22:
2001: The Seahawks move from the AFC West to the NFC West as the NFL realigns into eight four-team divisions. Instead of annual home-and-home games against the Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders and Chargers, the Seahawks are now matched twice a season against the 49ers, Cardinals and Rams. The Seahawks had been a member of the NFC West in their inaugural season in 1976, but moved to the AFC West in 1977. The Seahawks won the AFC West title in 1988 and 1999, and captured the NFC West championship from 2004-07 and also in 2010.
Move over Max Unger. Make way Percy Harvin. Take a deep breath Earl Thomas.
A fourth Seahawk will be added to the NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2013 when those ranked 51-60 are unveiled in the series’ fifth episode that airs Thursday night.
As was the case with Unger, the All-Pro center who was ranked No. 95; Harvin, the receiver/runner/returner who checked in at No. 90; and Thomas, the All-Pro free safety who was slotted at No. 66, we know who the fourth Seahawks is, but we can’t say.
You’ll have to tune in at 5 p.m. PT on Thursday to find out. But the candidates include All-Pro running back Marshawn Lynch, All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson and Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung.
Since being released by the Bears on March 20, the question has been: Where will Brian Urlacher play next?
Today, Urlacher supplied the answer by tweeting and issuing a statement that he was retiring after 13 of the most-productive seasons by any middle linebacker in NFL history.
“Although I could continue playing, I’m not sure I would bring a level of performance or passion that’s up to my standards,” Urlacher said in the statement.
And what standards the Pasco-born Urlacher set, as we recalled in this item from the day he was released:
There’s not much to not like about the way Urlacher plays the game, other than the fact that he’s played against the Seahawks on a far-to-regular basis in recent seasons.
For the just-how-does-he-play-the-game follow to that statement, I’ll defer to Michael Robinson, the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl-caliber fullback and lead blocker for Marshawn Lynch – a job that has forced Robinson’s path to veer directly into Urlacher on many occasions the past three seasons. Robinson joined the Seahawks in 2010, so he played against Urlacher twice that season (regular season and postseason, both in Chicago); again in 2011 (regular season, again in Chicago); and last season (regular season, and yet again in Chicago).
“He’s a very, very difficult guy to block,” Robinson said before the Week 15 game against the Bears in 2011, with Urlacher’s then 1,556 career tackles as proof – a total that has since grown to 1,779. “He’s very, very smart. He knows where the ball carrier wants to go and he’s all about the ball. He doesn’t like dealing with lead blockers, and the guys in front of him make it difficult for you to get on him, too.”
Before there was Robinson, there was Matt Hasselbeck – the former Seahawks QB who used to engage in some memorable pre-snap games of cat and mouse with the Bears’ middle linebacker.
“Urlacher does a great job of audibling as a middle linebacker,” Hasselbeck said before that regular season game against Urlacher in 2010. “He’s a great player and he’s well-coached. He’s been playing in this scheme a long time and you’ll see when an offense checks – a quarterback checks – he’ll check. Or, if he gets the sense that you’re pretending to check, then he’ll call it off.
“It’s one of those things where you make eye contact with him, you’re making a check, and he’s like, ‘No. No. No. Let’s just leave this one on.’ Or other times, he’ll be like, ‘Yeah, let’s check.’ And so he’s a great player.”
Urlacher, who was raised in New Mexico, has been NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (2000) as well as NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2005). He also was voted to eight Pro Bowls.
In eight games against the Seahawks – two in the postseason, six in the regular season – Urlacher had 56 tackles, or an average of seven. And his consistency was uncanny, as he never had more than eight or fewer than six.
Urlacher missed the final four games last season with a hamstring injury, so his final NFL game was played against the Seahawks on Dec. 2, when he had eight tackles and forced a fumble.
That was then, when it seemed Urlacher would play somewhere in 2013. This is now, when it ultimately came down to this for Urlacher: “After spending a lot of time this spring thinking about my NFL future, I have made a decision to retire,” he said in his statement.
The game, and definitely the Seahawks’ rivalry with the Bears, won’t be quite the same without him.
When 1B/DH Kendrys Morales was brought in this offseason, he was generally thought of as a power first bat, and for good reason. His OBP the year before was just .320, despite having a .273 average. .260 is a roughly average average, and .320 is about an average OBP. So his average was 13 points above “average”, but his OBP remained, due to a low walk rate.
Thus, it is easy to see why he is considered the way he is. Roughly 60% of his career .820 OPS has come from his slugging percentage, leaving about 40% to come from average. On average over the last three years (for the league), 56% of OPS has come from slugging, so Morales was a notch higher.
But he has changed as a player this year. His overall production is roughly the same as last year (.351 wOBA, 118 wRC+ career .346 and 122 this year), but how that production is coming to be is different. All of the sudden, he has been getting on base at a much higher clip, while losing a little bit of pop.
His OBP is at .356, which is one point above his career high (in what was by far his best season). And his .434 SLG% is a career low, with the previous low being the .467 he posted last year. And he is now getting just 55% of his OPS from his power, going from 3% above “average” to 1% below “average.” So clearly there has been a change in the kind of hitter he is, at least to this point.
Upon noticing this, I saw the opportunity for a post on the topic. So I searched and searched for some kind of deep explanation as to why this is happening. Turns out, there isn’t really a conclusive reason as to why he has become an on-base first guy this season.
I mean, there is the obvious explanation as to why his OBP has gone up. That being the fact that he has been way more patient at the plate, resulting in more walks.
|2006||Angels||30.9 %||68.4 %||49.9 %||71.2 %||89.3 %||83.8 %||50.8 %||63.3 %||7.9 %|
|2007||Angels||38.3 %||71.5 %||49.4 %||62.3 %||90.7 %||76.1 %||33.6 %||46.8 %||10.9 %|
|2008||Angels||32.6 %||68.7 %||48.3 %||71.4 %||94.1 %||85.5 %||43.4 %||43.9 %||6.6 %|
|2009||Angels||32.1 %||64.0 %||46.1 %||63.8 %||88.5 %||78.8 %||43.8 %||56.6 %||9.2 %|
|2010||Angels||30.8 %||62.9 %||45.3 %||61.1 %||90.9 %||79.8 %||45.2 %||51.2 %||8.9 %|
|2012||Angels||35.9 %||70.4 %||50.1 %||61.8 %||85.5 %||75.5 %||41.2 %||59.6 %||12.1 %|
|2013||Mariners||26.2 %||67.8 %||44.2 %||62.1 %||87.7 %||79.1 %||43.3 %||52.2 %||8.8 %|
|Total||- – -||32.9 %||66.9 %||47.6 %||63.5 %||88.2 %||78.6 %||43.3 %||56.1 %||9.8 %|
Take a look above at his plate discipline numbers, courtesy of FanGraphs. As you can see, all of his swing rates are down quite a bit. The most extreme of the three being his O-Swing%, which is down almost 10% from the year before, and 7% from his career. Obviously, that means he has not been swinging at as many bad pitches, which has led to more free passes.
So that explains his increase in walks and ability to get on base. But why is his power also down? The two aren’t inversely related in most cases, meaning as one goes up the other does not go down.
This part is not as easily explained. There really aren’t any glaring changes in terms of the amount nor the kind of contact he is making. As seen above, his contact rate is better than his career mark. And there also aren’t any significant fluctuations in his batted ball numbers. His LD% is 2.2% higher than his average, his FB% is down 1.8% (but is up from 2012), and his GB rate is right at his career average. None of those really suggest that his power should be zapped. If his line drive rate were way down, or ground ball rate way up, then maybe.
The best explanation I can find is that his HR/FB is all the way down at 11.6%, which is 5% lower than his career mark, and 9.4% lower than it was last year. But the problem with that is, it may not be a perfect explanation. It does tell us something, but its answer isn’t really specific.
Fangraphs says of FB%:
Was the player still hitting the same about of fly balls but with a lower HR/FB rate? This could imply that the player lost a touch off their power, which could be a result of an injury or the tell-tale sign of an aging slugger. Or did the player still have the same HR/FB rate, but he was hitting fewer fly balls? If a player goes from hitting fly balls to ground balls, that could be attributed to contact issues.
Kendrys falls into the first category, with a fairly similar amount of fly balls, but a crazy low HR/FB rate. And unfortunately, that likely speaks to a more permanent loss of power. We already knew he lost power, but now the numbers might suggest it is because of “an injury or the tell-tale sign of an aging slugger.” That certainly isn’t what we want to here, as I am sure most of us were hoping to find something that would suggest some regression to the mean, and an re-increase in power.
And it still might. HR/FB doesn’t stabilize until about 300 plate appearances, and he is only a little more than half way there. His slugging percentage has been on the rise recently, and that trend may continue until he reaches a more normal mark. Or, he may be sacrificing some aggressiveness and pop for more patience and contact. We don’t really know for sure.
At this point, thankfully, it doesn’t really matter all that much if he stays this way. He has been roughly the same player in terms of productivity, and that is what matters. If anything, this increase in patience and discipline is a blessing. Those traits tend to stick around, and walk rate is much quicker to stabilize — and he is about 20 PA way from that point — rendering a sudden revert to his old numbers unlikely. Conversely, as I said before, there is still a chance that his power returns a little, which would create a perfect situation. Kendrys prior power combined with this current on-base ability would make for a very valuable player. And we like value around here.