What 6 Things You Need to Know Thursday – #NFL #MLB

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1.

Who’s The Best in Fantasy?

There is little debate over who should win the NFL MVP award, with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton likely to snag that honor. So instead, we decided to examine a more uncertain question — who is the best fictional pro football player of all time?

Read: Which fictional professional football player is the best?

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2.

Re-Watchability…

The endless two-week build up before the Super Bowl can get tedious, but tripping down memory lane helps the time move faster. From the recent instant classics to the one-sided routs from the 1970s and ’80s, and even the sepia-toned matchups that spurred the AFL-NFL merger, every big game had its own unique quality.

As some have done already, we wanted to take a look at every Super Bowl in terms of the excitement factor, but with an emphasis on how well the game has aged, and how eager we would be to rewatch each one.

Read: Which has been the most exciting Super Bowl to date?

3.

2 Sports:

It’s a football kind of week, even in the world of baseball.

Before we get to Spring Training (less than two weeks until pitchers and catchers!) and before we even get to Sunday’s Super Bowl 50, there is today’s college football National Signing Day.

Naturally, all this palaver about pigskin has us thinking about the glorious occasional conversion between the stars of these two very American athletic undertakings.

Read: 13 football players who became Major Leaguers | MLB.com

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4.

Politico…

The presidential race and the baseball season share a certain symmetry of scheduling.

February is not only the time the presidential candidates spend a disproportionate amount of time campaigning in faraway locales in Iowa and New Hampshire, it’s also the month clubs begin spending an inordinate amount of time training in faraway locales in Florida and Arizona. And the goal of each campaign, of course, is to accumulate small victories early, surge in the summer and then obtain the ultimate prize in the fall.

With that in mind, let’s reimagine each team’s 2016 declaration of intent in the form of a political slogan.

Read: What if baseball teams had political slogans?

Yu Darvish's slider is in a league of its own. (via Matthew Straubmuller)

5.

Slider In…

Let’s take a visual stroll across Statistical Boulevard and meander past Analytics Way as we dissect the slider (as classified by PITCHf/x) in various ways. The intent of this article is to show some interesting visuals on the aforementioned slider and perhaps bring to the surface an interesting tidbit or two.

We begin with a brisk walk on Top Season Street and take a peek at the top slider-throwing seasons since 2009. I’ve excluded 2008 since it was the first season to have PITCHf/x data, and it showed some weird inconsistencies with the rest of the data set. 2008 will be excluded from all data in this article. The graph below is courtesy of FanGraphs’ leaderboards feature.

Read: The Slider: A Visual Analysis – The Hardball Times

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6.

Turnaround…

It’s nearing the time of year when experts and prognosticators release their predictions for the 2016 Major League Baseball season, but only one thing is certain — nobody ever fully knows what to expect.

Look no further than just last season, when the Astros, Cubs and Mets all blazed a path to the postseason, despite most believing each club was still a year or two away from contention. Though it was a bit more prevalent last year, it turns out almost every season during the Wild Card era has featured at least one team making an unexpected postseason run.

Since the introduction of the Wild Card in 1995, only the 2005 campaign did not include at least one team that qualified for the postseason after finishing the previous year with a losing record. This was true for four of last year’s 10 qualifiers, with the Rangers joining the aforementioned trio with a drastic turnaround of their own. It’s also worth noting that there have been at least two such postseason qualifiers in each of the four seasons since a second Wild Card berth was added to each league in 2012.

Overall, about one in four postseason teams since 1995 were coming off of a losing season. While these improvements were more expected in some cases than others, there has been a fair share of surprising postseason runs a la last season.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at which team(s) is most likely to continue this trend in 2016. The following is a look at each of the 14 teams that finished with a losing record last season, as well as their prospects for reaching the postseason in ’16. The teams were broken down into three categories — “Work in progress,” “Borderline contenders” and “Eye on the prize” — based on the likelihood of qualifying for the playoffs next season.

Read: Which sub-.500 teams can make a run in 2016?