2014

Best Albums of the 2010s

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

We’re already six years into the 2010s, so I thought it would be a good time to list my favorite albums of the decade, so far anyway. This is a tentative list, so as I hear new things and change my mind on other albums the  list list will be update. I’ll try to do it regularly,  but at the very least I’ll add new albums to it at the end of each year. (more…)

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Best Albums of 2014

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

your dead

Flying Lotus’ electronic-jazz-rap fusion album You’re Dead! is not your typical top album. It doesn’t have singles, catchy hooks, or even discernible lyrics. Instead, You’re Dead! creates an atmosphere. Most of the nineteen tracks are well under three minutes in length and run together, making the album more like one, long jazz odyssey instead of a bunch of different tunes.  There are some trippy moments here and there, a lot of funky sound effects and flashes of absolute beauty, like the best track “Never Catch Me.” Flying Lotus’ production matches up with Kendrick Lamar’s style and lyrics flawlessly and Lamar’s smooth, yet decisive flow alone is as captivating as the intricate drumming behind him.  You normally don’t get a build from start to finish that’s as dramatic and ever changing on a hip-hop record.

run the jewels 2
The second installment from the duo of Killer Mike and El-P was the best hip-hop album of 2014, and it really wasn’t even close.  Both guys have great chemistry.  Listening to them play off each-other rhymes is like watching a chess match between two good friend that know the other’s next move.  The verses constantly get more creative, the references more obscure and the content more vulgar. Run The Jewels 2 is more brash and relentless than their first album, and although it does lack some diversity, it’s fun, concise and loud enough to keep your attention with ease. (more…)

2014 MLB Preview #1: St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals (101-61)
Team Ace:  Adam Wainwright
Breakout Player: Matt Adams

The Cardinal’s one weakness last season was their defense, and improving that aspect of their game was the top priority in the offseason.  The Cardinals cut ties with Carlos Beltran in order to get younger, faster and to steal a few more runs in center field with Peter Bourjos.  They moved Matt Carpenter to 3rd base to replace David Freese, and now have the combination of Mark Ellis and Kolten Wong  at second base, both who bring consistent offensive production and top defensive skills.  Also, by moving Allen Craig to the outfield, they have an opening for Matt Adams at first, which with the addition of Jhonny Peralta will try to replace Beltran’s bat in the lineup.   Even if the Cardinals suffer some injuries in the outfield, middle infield or at first, they have options to replace them.  Jon Jay always’s manages to steal at bats every year, and is a great piece in the outfield. Prospect Oscer Taveras looks like he’ll be joining the big team sooner rather than later, giving them even more versatility. And they still have Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso, who played around 130 games each last season, riding the bench and ready to fill in at 3rd, 2nd, or short if needed. (more…)

2014 MLB Preview #8-2

8. Cincinnati Reds (90-72)
Team Ace: Mat Latos
Breakout Player: Billy Hamilton

I can’t see this team beating the Cardinals for the division title, but even with there injuries coming into the year I don’t see a scenario where the Reds fail to make the playoffs either.

The only real change in the offseason was replacing Sin Shoo Choo with speedster Billy Hamilton in center field. Defensively Hamilton is a huge improvement (Choo ranked at the bottom of the league in defensive runs saved last season), and the two players are completely different offensively.   Choo was an all around player, combining modest speed with a great OBP and some power.  Hamilton won’t be nearly as effective getting on base, or driving in runs from the leadoff spot, but when he gets on base will give the team a lot of options.

It’s unrealistic to expect Cueto to start more than 16 or 17 games at this point, but the team does have a few strong options at the top of the rotation.  Homer Bailey has been improving ever so slightly every season since he’s been in the major, and he’ll take another step this year, and can be a poor man’s Madison Bumgarner.

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2014 MLB Preview #9: The New York Yankees

The New York Yankees (90-72)
Team Ace: CC Sabathia
Breakout Player: Michael Pineda

The Yankees have an extremely wide range of outcomes for this season, and I decided to go by the numbers with my favorite team (partly because I felt it was a way to be less bias, and mostly because it seemed really fun to do).  Lets start with the facts; the Yankees had 85 wins last year, after having 95 wins in 2012.  Their team ace, CC Sabathia had the worst season of his career (career worst 4.78 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, .3 WAR and in pitches per inning, and worst K rate since 2005).  They suffered major injuries with four of their previous year’s regular starters, with Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeira, and Granderson all missing at least 100 games.  The team was forced to mix and match any players they could find, and although they didn’t make the playoffs still managed to be surprisingly competitive relying on guys that were at or below replacement level.   Everything that could have went wrong for the Yankees did in 2013.  To me, this all means that 85 wins is a worse case scenario for this team this year.

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2014 MLB Preview #15-10

You’ll be finding playoff contenders from this point on in my rankings.

Since I started writing my power rankings a few weeks ago, a lot of things have changed, most of them injury related.  I’ve adjusted my remaining team rankings accordingly but am leaving my projected records the same (they’re too hard to change across the board, and I’ve already published so many that I wouldn’t want to go back and change all of them)  So the records and ranks might not make too much sense together at this point, but I am confident with my order.

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2014 MLB Preview #21-16

21. Colorado Rockies (75-87)
Team Ace: Jorge De La Rosa
Breakout Player: Rex Brothers

For a team that plays in such a hitter friendly park, I find the Rockies very boring to watch.  They’ve yet to find any help for their pitching staff, and refuse to commit to Rex Brothers as their closer, instead electing to bring in a 41-year-old in his place.  Troy Tuloitske and CarGo missed some time again in 2013 so there’s no reason to think the two of them can see the field at the same time.
Justin Morneau is an interesting addition because he might see a noticeable spike in his power numbers and has been slowly improving the last few seasons, but he, too is an injury risk, and won’t be the fan favorite Todd Helton was, even if his production is more consistent. (more…)

2014 MLB Preview #22: Minnesota Twins

Minnesota Twins (72-90)
Team Ace: Ricky Nolasco
Breakout Player: Josmil Pinto

The Twins’ as a team ranked 29th in ERA last season, and their notable improvement is with their starting rotation. Expecting a huge jump in production would be unrealistic but they could find themselves in the 16-20 range. (more…)

2014 MLB Preview #30-23

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

They’re finally here, my preseason power rankings for the 2014 baseball season!  I know last year these kind of got out of hand, so I’m trying my best to keep them brief this year (just a paragraph) with a few exceptions.  As of now, I’m expecting this to be about six entries long, so be on the lookout for my new posts over the next two week as we count from #30 all the way to the top.

Also, a new addition this year is my predicted records for each team, located next teach team’s name.

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