Nationals

Attorney: No charges against suspended UT player

Attorney: No charges against suspended UT player

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) An attorney for Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks says police will not file charges against his client after investigating a sexual assault allegation on the eve of the Alamo Bowl.

Austin attorney Perry Minton said Wednesday in a statement that San Antonio police informed him that no charges will be brought against Hicks ``or anyone else in this matter.'' Hicks and backup quarterback Case McCoy were suspended Dec. 28 in a move that followed a police investigation involving two unidentified students at a downtown hotel.

San Antonio police spokesman Matthew Porter said detectives were still reviewing the case and did not comment further.

Minton has previously said the conduct under investigation was consensual.

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Nationals Spring Training Preview: Rotation workload an important factor

Nationals Spring Training Preview: Rotation workload an important factor

The Nationals will enter the 2020 season boasting one of the best rotations in baseball, just as they have every year since they rose to contention in 2012.

Each of the top four spots are a given. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez are all coming off strong seasons and will hope to replicate their success after pitching deep into the postseason.

At the back end, three pitchers will be given the chance to compete in Spring Training for the fifth-starter role: Austin Voth, Joe Ross and Erick Fedde.

This is the second installment of a Spring Training preview series, broken down by position group. The first story focused on the outfield, which you can find here.

Here’s a snapshot of the Nationals’ starting rotation as they prepare for the trip down to West Palm Beach.

All ages listed are as of Opening Day.

No. 1 Starter – Max Scherzer

Age: 35

2019 Stats: 27 starts, 172 1/3 innings, 11-7 record, 2.92 ERA, 2.45 FIP, 1.027 WHIP, 243 strikeouts, 33 walks, 18 home runs allowed and 7 hit batters

Contract: $35,920,616 million salary in 2020, free agent after 2021

At the start of last season, Max Scherzer was heralded as one of the most durable starters in the sport. He’d made at least 30 starts in 10 consecutive years, one fewer than the Chicago Cubs’ Jon Lester for the longest active streak in the majors.

But back and rhomboid strains limited him to just 27 starts in 2019, his fewest since making just seven (16 total appearances) as a rookie in 2008. Then neck spasms forced manager Davey Martinez to scratch him from his World Series Game 5 start, only for him to return three days later after receiving a cortisone shot.

It was the first injury-plagued season of Scherzer’s career. And at 35 years old, he must now prove he can still fend off the aging curve while keeping his body healthy for the course of a full season—something he's done with force to this point of his career. Speaking at the Nationals’ annual WinterFest event on Jan. 11, Scherzer insisted that he feels great as he revs up for the new season.

“Now that the calendar has turned to January, I’m feeling actually really good right now,” Scherzer said. “Throwing and running and doing everything I need to do. My body is in a pretty good spot considering how late we played last year.”

The Nationals will likely be cautious with Scherzer, focusing on making sure he’s healthy more than anything else by the time they get to Opening Day.

No. 2 Starter – Stephen Strasburg

Age: 31

2019 Stats: 33 starts, 209 innings, 18-6 record, 3.32 ERA, 3.25 FIP, 1.038 WHIP, 251 strikeouts, 56 walks, 24 home runs allowed and 10 hit batters

Contract: $35 million salary in 2020, free agent after 2026

Contrary to his teammate alongside him at the front of the Nationals’ rotation, Stephen Strasburg doesn’t have the reputation of being healthy all year. Yet, Strasburg led the NL with 209 regular-season innings then went on to throw another 36 1/3 in the playoffs.

It was by far the biggest workload of his career. In fact, before last season Strasburg hadn’t even reached the 200-inning threshold since 2014. So heading into 2020 with a World Series MVP award added to his résumé and a seven-year $245 million deal secured, Strasburg will look to prove that his injury history is well behind him.

“I think [my body] kind of reverted to what I’ve done in the past and I think it’s feeling good,” Strasburg said at WinterFest. “It’s feeling strong. Some stuff [was] tweaked as far as the lifting and everything. Kind of tapering off of that to start, allowing the body to recover. A lot of the adjustments that will need to be addressed is going to be through Spring Training and managing the workload, building up.”

Strasburg will also look to continue expanding his pitch selection with less of a dependency on his fastball. According to Brooks Baseball, Strasburg threw his four-seamer a personal-low 28.7 percent of the time, down from his career average of 49.6 percent. Meanwhile, he threw each of his sinker, changeup and curveball more often than he ever had.

No. 3 Starter – Patrick Corbin

Age: 30

2019 Stats: 33 starts, 202 innings, 14-7 record, 3.25 ERA, 3.49 FIP, 1.183 WHIP, 238 strikeouts, 70 walks, 24 home runs allowed and 3 hit batters

Contract: $19,416,667 million salary in 2020, free agent after 2024

In his first season with the Nationals, Patrick Corbin pitched exactly as advertised. His wipeout slider dominated lefties, he racked up strong strikeout numbers and put together a strong enough season to earn a vote on an NL Cy Young ballot.

Corbin also proved prone to stretches of dominance mixed in with the occasional dud. Only Corbin and the Cleveland Indians’ Shane Bieber had at least 24 quality starts (six innings, three earned runs or fewer allowed) while also posting five or more starts with at least five runs allowed.

When he was struggling, Corbin told reporters that the biggest key was to keep his fastball down.

Corbin often used his fastball to set up his potent slider with two strikes. Per Brooks Baseball, on fastballs in the top three quadrants of the strike zone, hitters posted a .475 slugging percentage—struggling in particular with pitches on his arm-side. For reference, Paul Goldschmidt slugged .476 last season.

So in order to avoid turning opposing hitters into Goldschmidt, Corbin will need to work on keeping his fastball down in the zone and setting up his renowned slider.

No. 4 Starter - Aníbal Sánchez

Age: 36

2019 Stats: 30 starts, 166 innings, 11-8 record, 3.85 ERA, 4.44 FIP, 1.271 WHIP, 134 strikeouts, 58 walks, 22 home runs allowed and 4 hit batters

Contract: $7 million salary in 2020, $18 million team option with $6 million buyout for 2021

In Aníbal Sánchez, the Nationals have yet another starter on a quest to prove he can stay effective with age. The veteran right-hander’s fastball velocity dipped down to a career-worst 90.7 mph, but he also pulled back on his usage of it and relied more on his wide array of off-speed pitches.

Sánchez stumbled to start the year before sitting for two weeks with a hamstring strain. But after he returned, he regained his form and put together a 3.42 ERA with an opponents’ OPS of just .668 the rest of the way. Despite his age, Sánchez showed that the work he put in to resurrect his career with the Atlanta Braves in 2017 was no fluke.

“Right now, [I’m] sore,” Sánchez said at WinterFest. “Everything is sore right now. I’ve been working out for two months already and I start throwing in three weeks…I’m not 22, I’m no [Juan] Soto right now but I’m going to be fine for Spring Training.”

Like the rest of his rotation mates, Sánchez was relied on deep into October. It was the first time he’d pitched past a division series since 2013, so his body wasn’t accustomed to that kind of workload coupled with a short turnaround the following year.

No. 5 Starter – Austin Voth, Joe Ross or Erick Fedde

Austin Voth

Age: 27

2019 Stats: 8 starts (9 appearances), 43 2/3 innings, 2-1 record, 3.30 ERA, 3.79 FIP, 1.053 WHIP, 44 strikeouts, 13 walks, 5 home runs allowed and 3 hit batters

Contract: League minimum in 2020, arbitration eligible in 2023, free agent after 2025

Joe Ross

Age: 26

2019 Stats: 9 starts (27 appearances), 64 innings, 4-4 record, 5.48 ERA, 4.59 FIP, 1.672 WHIP, 57 strikeouts, 33 walks, 7 home runs allowed and 4 hit batters

Contract: $1.5 million salary in 2020, arbitration eligible in 2021, free agent after 2021

Erick Fedde

Age: 27

2019 Stats: 12 starts (21 appearances), 78 innings, 4-2 record, 4.50 ERA, 5.34 FIP, 1.462 WHIP, 41 strikeouts, 33 walks, 11 home runs allowed and 2 hit batters

Contract: League minimum in 2020, arbitration eligible in 2022, free agent after 2024

One of the biggest competitions the Nationals will host this spring, the fifth-starter job is once again no sure bet as the team prepares for Spring Training.

Erick Fedde faces the longest odds to win the spot, as his lack of substantial service time at the major-league level over his first three seasons created a rare fourth minor-league option. This will give the Nationals the ability to shuttle him back and forth between the big-league club and their farm system as needed throughout the year.

Austin Voth and Joe Ross, however, are out of options and must make the team out of Spring Training or else be forced onto waivers. This makes them the two leading candidates to nab that fifth spot, with no clear front-runner heading into Grapefruit League play.

Both pitchers will need to produce positive results on the mound during Spring Training, a requirement only of players fighting for roster spots. Although they both still have plenty of chances to impress their coaches in practices and bullpen sessions, their statistics from game action figure to weigh heavy in the minds of Martinez and his coaching staff.

The man who falls short will likely then be moved to the bullpen, serving as the team’s long reliever. Regardless, both pitchers should benefit from going into the regular season with a set role. Voth, Ross and Fedde all alternated back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen and back again, a process that can be difficult for inexperienced players to adjust to.

But with Fedde likely remaining stretched out as a starter in the minor leagues as the next man up if an injury arises, both Voth and Ross can go into the 2020 season knowing the role they’re in will be theirs to keep if they find success in it.

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Here's why there's a prop bet that Kyle Shanahan's 49ers will blow a significant lead

Here's why there's a prop bet that Kyle Shanahan's 49ers will blow a significant lead

The Super Bowl always brings obscure prop bets that raise eyebrows. Outside of the annual wagers on the color of Gatorade poured on the coach or the duration of the national anthem, each Super Bowl brings unique bets fans can make.

This year, one prop bet revolves around San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and what happened the last time he was on the sidelines for a Super Bowl. That was, of course, the infamous 2017 Super Bowl, when Shanahan was the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons.

His team had a commanding 28-3 lead with 8:31 to play in the third quarter. But as the Patriots went on their run to cut the deficit, the Falcons couldn’t muster a score of their own to put the game away. Further, Shanahan’s play-calling faced scrutiny for his fourth-quarter decisions not to run the ball to expend the clock.

As Shanahan gets set for a chance at Super Bowl redemption, the sportsbook PointsBet is offering 100-1 odds that his team will blow another 28-3 lead in this year’s Super Bowl.

Some may be hesitant to take those odds, chalking up the 2017 Super Bowl as a one-off. But a deeper dive into his time with the Redskins from 2010-2013 shows that Shanahan’s offenses were susceptible to reeling off dynamic starts before lowly second halves.

In just his second game manning the Redskins offense, Washington took a 27-10 lead over the Houston Texans with under four minutes to go in the third quarter. The Texans then scored 20 unanswered points to win 30-27 in overtime.

Two years later, also in Week 2, Shanahan and company raced out to a 21-6 lead midway through the second quarter and looked prime to improve to 2-0 with then-rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. But the offensive productivity fizzled out, and the Rams came back to win 31-28.

Shanahan’s most significant blown lead in Washington came in the Wild Card playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks. In the Redskins’ first playoff home game since 1999, the team staked a 14-0 lead in the first quarter but failed to score again thereafter en route to a 24-14 loss.

During the 2013 season, his last in Washington, Shanahan saw his offense falter after building two-score leads in three games.

Against the eventual Super Bowl runner-up Broncos, the Redskins held a 21-7 lead in the third quarter before Denver rallied to win decisively, 45-21. Two weeks later, the offense led the team to a 24-14 first half against the Vikings, but managed just one field goal in the second half in a 34-27 loss. And in a Week 13 home game against the Giants, Washington led 14-0 early in the second quarter, but eventually lost 24-17.

None of Shanahan’s blown leads in Washington were as high as 25 points, nor were they on one of the biggest stages in sports. But when you’re considering the 28-3 prop bet this year, just know that there are other results beyond the 2017 Super Bowl to base your decision on.

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