The Legacy of Peja Stojakovic

17 Dec

A relatively unknown 19-year-old playing in Greece became the greatest shooter in Sacramento Kings history. Predrag aka Peja Stojakovic, was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in what may be the second-best draft class ever, and that’s where his legacy began. The sure-shooter was selected as the 14th pick when many analysts and Kings fans ridiculed the decision, thinking John Wallace, who shined in his four years at Syracuse, was the best option for the team.

In what was the start of Geoff Petrie‘s legacy with the Kings and the beginning of Sacramento’s ascension, Stojakovic would remain in Greece for two years joining the Kings in 1998. Stojakovic would play minimal minutes behind Corliss Williamson for the most part in his first two years before shooting onto the scene in 2000, when Williamson was traded for Doug Christie, averaging 20 points per-game for the Kings.

From there, Peja took the role of starting small forward for the “Greatest Show on Court” Kings where his off-the-screen shooting and passing capability made him a lethal threat alongside the likes of Jason Williams, Christie, Chris Webber and Vlade Divac, who took over as mentor of Stojakovic in 1998 when he signed with Sacramento.

With Divac as role model and fellow Serbian, Stojakovic’s comfortability and confidence boosted year by year, as he flourished in his shooting role. A career .401% three-point shooter, which ranks him 36th in NBA history, his effortless, unorthodox step-back shot along with his 6’10” frame made him all but unstoppable if given the slightest bit of room. His lack of one-on-one capability was overshadowed by his off-the-ball movement which rewarded him from a team of passers, from the point-guard position to center.

With 1760 three-pointers made,the quintessential shooter is ninth on the all-time NBA list, but if you dig a little deeper, you see Stojakovic’s true efficiency from beyond the arc. In the three-pointers made category, according to Basketball Reference, of the top-10, Peja has the least played games, at 804, while the second-least games played is Jamal Crawford at 980. With Crawford still in the league, if he remains healthy and plays in 20 more games, he’ll leave Peja as the only player on the top-10 list to not play in over 1000 games.

Peja is second on the list at 3P-per-game, making 2.2, only behind Jesus Shuttlesworth himself, Ray Allen who hit 2.3. However, when it comes to percentage, Peja (.4007) edges out Allen (.4002), out of the eligible top-10, for the top-spot. Reggie MIller comes in third with an average of about .395%.

So is it fair to claim that Peja is the best shooter of all time? Realistically, yes. However, due to injuries to his foot, back, neck and knee later in his career, Peja was never able to see the same success he had in Sacramento.

Stojakovic, a three-time all-star and two-time 3-point shootout champ finished his Sacramento career at the top of many Kings lists.

Stojakovic also played for the Indiana Pacers, whom the Kings traded him to, for the New Orleans Hornets, Toronto Raptors and Dallas Mavericks, the team which he won his championship ring with in 2011.

Peja will be remembered tonight in Sacramento as his #16 jersey is retired by the Kings. Thanks for all the memories!

Silver and comeback

13 Dec

Don’t ever say the Oakland Raiders are out of it. At least not this season. Right now, it doesn’t matter who they’re playing or what the deficit is. The Raiders just win, baby.

Oakland won its sixth straight game Sunday, 38-24 over the Buffalo Bills.

After falling behind 24-9 with nine minutes left in the third quarter, the Raiders then went on a 29-0 run. From that point on the Raiders offense outgained the Bills 230 to 70. The Bills had six offensive drives from that point on and the Raiders defense forced three straight three-and-outs and two turnovers from the Bills (Buffalo’s last drive ended as time expired in the fourth quarter).

One of the issues heading into the game for the Raiders was how Derek Carr’s injured right hand was holding up, but after a handful of drops in the first half Raiders’ wide receivers were probably being asked that same question.

Seth Roberts and Michael Crabtree each dropped catchable balls in the end zone on an arduous red zone chance before Sebastian Janikowski kicked his second field goal of the game.

Due to the drops and a couple mistimed penalties, the Raiders’ offense stalled for much of the first half. However, they found themselves only trailing 10-9 after Janikowski capped off the second quarter with his third 40-plus yard field goal of the game.

The Raiders’ defense, secondary especially, has been the biggest concern for most fans this season and they didn’t offer much optimism on the Bills’ first two drives of the game as Buffalo drove down the field with ease, settling for a field goal on their first possession and punching in a one-yard touchdown on their second.

Bills’ quarterback Tyrod Taylor started the game 9 of 10 passing and LeSean McCoy and Mike Gillislee each ran for big chunks of yards. Gillislee scored the aforementioned rushing touchdown for the Bills.

The Bills opened the second half with a kick return to their own 34-yard line, then a McCoy 54-yard run would set up the Bills at the Raiders’ 12. Taylor optioned on the next play and ran to the right side untouched into the end zone to put the Bills up 17-9.

After going three-and-out, the Raiders punted and Buffalo once again drove down the field for another score. Now 24-9, the Raiders had to respond and respond they did. Carr led Oakland on a 75-yard drive capped off by a three-yard touchdown to Crabtree. Crabtree finished the game with seven catches for 74 yards.

After Jalen Richard returned the punt to the Bills’ 38, Carr hit Crabtree on first down for four. Richard followed with a 21-yard run to the Bills’ 13. A couple plays later, Latavius Murray would get into the end zone to bring the Raiders within one.

On the Bills’ next drive, the Raiders shut them down for -5 yards as they forced another punt and once again Carr and the Raiders moved the ball down the field effortlessly. A double-move from Amari Cooper freed him enough for Carr to drop in a dime for a 37-yard touchdown. The Raiders led 30-24 at that point.

As the momentum had all but left the Bills, Khalil Mack made his presence felt on the first play of the drive as he got his hand on Taylor’s pass and Nate Allen intercepted it. Once again Murray would finish the four play, 16-yard drive with a rushing touchdown. Carr would also link up with Seth Roberts for the two-point conversion to make it 38-24. Carr finished the game 19 for 35 for 260 yards.

As the Bills attempted to make it a one score game, Mack, for the second game in a row, got a strip sack that all but sealed the Raiders’ win. It was the seventh straight game that Mack recorded a sack and was his 10th sack of the year.

The Raiders once again had a second half comeback victory and won their sixth straight game to improve their AFC West-leading record to 10-2. According to Josh Dubow of the Associated Press, Oakland hadn’t overcome a 15-plus point deficit since 2000.

The Raiders now have a short week as they prepare for a Thursday night AFC West showdown at Arrowhead Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs. The winner of that game will sit in first place of the division.

Hot Raiders Cooled by Chiefs

13 Dec

In Kansas City, with AFC West supremacy on the line in below freezing temperatures the Oakland Raiders couldn’t take advantage of their opportunities and fell to the Chiefs 21-13.

The win for the Chiefs not only gave them their 10th win of the season, but it also put them into a tie for first place with the Raiders, who fell to 10-3 on the year. With the Chiefs winning the season series 2-0, it also gave them the tiebreaker in the series. To add insult to injury, the loss dropped the Raiders from first place in the AFC to fifth place and ousted them from the first-round bye position they had comfortably found themselves in for over a month.

The Raiders rolled into Kansas City on a six-game win streak and the Chiefs boasted seven wins in their last eight games as well. The Raiders were missing their starting offensive guard, Kelechi Osemele, due to an illness as well as safety Karl Joseph, who was injured last week.

The Raiders caught a break when Chiefs’ punt returner Tyreek Hill muffed a punt in the first quarter, but Oakland was unable to punch the ball into the end zone after recovering the fumble in Kansas City territory. This would be a repeating story as the game went on.

The first quarter was quiet from both sides as the Raiders went into the second quarter with a 3-0 lead, however, the Chiefs made their presence known in the second when quarterback Alex Smith connected with Hill on a 42-yard touchdown to give Kansas City the lead.

After a Raiders punt, the Chiefs would once again march down the field for their second score of the game to take a 14-3 lead. One more punt from Raiders’ Marquette King set up a Hill punt return to the house, which gave the Chiefs a commanding 21-3 lead.

With the Raiders faltering after what had to feel like a hard left hook, Derek Carr led the Raiders on a 14 play, 92-yard touchdown drive to beat the imaginary 10-count. Amari Cooper on the drive was able to beat Chiefs cornerback Terrance Mitchell for two receptions and 19 yards as well as a pass interference in the end zone which set up a Latavius Murray (who finished the game with 22 carries for 103 yards) touchdown run. At the half, Chiefs led 21-10.

The Raiders magic seemed to be in full effect to begin the second half as Kansas City had two turnovers in their first two drives, but the Raiders were only able to get three points off the pair of turnovers and the Chiefs still held a 21-13 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

One of the turnovers was forced by defensive end Khalil Mack, who earned his third strip sack in three straight games.

With only six points resulting from the Chiefs’ three turnovers, the biggest miss for Oakland had to be in the fourth quarter when Carr had a wide open Cooper down the middle of the field on third down but he lost sight of the ball somehow, resulting in another Raiders’ punt.

It was an uncanny off night for Carr who was limited by the Chiefs defense to just 17 of 41 passing and a lowly 117 yards.

With the clock winding down in the fourth quarter and the Raiders driving, a false start penalty (the 10th penalty of the night for Oakland) would turn a 4th and 1 to a 4th and 6 and a pass breakup from Mitchell would give the Chiefs the ball back. A first down for the Chiefs allowed Kansas City to settle into victory formation.

The Raiders will have a long break before heading to San Diego to face the Chargers in another AFC West battle.

Blach Ks 10, River Cats Defeat isotopes

13 Dec

The first hit of Ricky Oropesa’s Sacramento River Cats career and a top-notch outing from Ty Blach helped the Cats edge the Albuquerque Isotopes on Saturday night.
An announced attendance of 9,709 were on hand at Raley Field in West Sacramento, Calif. And all in attendance were able to see some early history for a couple Cats.
With Sacramento holding a 3-2 lead Oropesa singled a shot into right field that would send in Travis Ishikawa and Myles Schroder, who walked and was hit by a pitch, respectively.
Now with the 5-2 lead, Blach took the mound in the top of the seventh and looked to finish his night off strong. Blach sat down the side in the seventh inning, earning his eighth, ninth and 10th strikeouts in the process.
In addition to his strikeouts, Blach (8-5) went seven innings and allowed six hits. 72 of his 101 pitches on the night were good for strikes.
Blach, who pitched a complete game shutout in his prior start, began the game with two quick outs before allowing a double to Stephen Cardullo and a single to Ben Paulsen, which gave the Isotopes an early 1-0 advantage.
The River Cats (35-48) answered in the bottom half of the first as Gorkys Hernandez, who finished 2 for 4, led off the game with a double and Ali Castillo followed with a single of his own. With first and third for the Cats, Ryan Lollis stepped the plate and hit a groundball to the right side which bounced past Isotopes second baseman Jeff Bianchi. The error gave the Cats their first run of the night. Castillo would make it to third base on the play and would score on a double play ball by catcher Miguel Olivo.
With a 2-1 lead, Blach pitched a scoreless second inning while garnering two Ks.
In the third inning, however, Albuquerque (32-50) would look to tie the game after Rafael Ynoa singled and Mike Tauchman doubled to give the Isotopes second and third with one out. Stephen Cardullo hit a shot to first baseman Oropesa and tied the game with a sacrifice out.
In the bottom half, the Cats once again tried to avenge their blown lead. Blach led off the inning with an opposite field single before being thrown out at second after Hernandez hit a ground ball to Bianchi who threw to shortstop Ynoa for the force at second.
From there, Hernandez stole second and was hit in when the flaming-hot bat of Castillo singled him in. It marked Castillo’s sixth hit in eight at-bats since getting called up to Sacramento.
From the top of the fourth inning until when Blach was pulled, no Isotopes player would reach second base.
Jean Machi pitched a one-two-three eighth inning for the River Cats and in the ninth inning Machi would get the first two outs before walking Isotopes catcher Dustin Garneau.
Lefty Steven Okert replaced Machi to face the left-handed hitting Jordan Patterson and got him to fly out to center fielder Hernandez to earn his second save of the year and close out the game.
The Cats will look to win the four-game series tomorrow night against at Raley Field. Scheduled starters for the 7:05 p.m. start is Vin Mazzaro for the River Cats and Harrison Musgrave for the Isotopes.

Sacramento River Cats Can’t Overcome Albuquerque Isotopes Big Fourth Inning

13 Dec

The Sacramento River Cats were celebrating the Fourth of July a day early but the Albuquerque Isotopes celebrated in the fourth inning as the five runs they scored in that inning would be enough for the victory.
That inning and ittle run support cost the Sacramento River Cats (35-49) as they dropped the final game of the four-game series to the Albuquerque Isotopes (33-50). With the 5-1 loss, the series was split two games apiece.
Vin Mazzaro coasted through three innings allowing only two hits, but Mazzaro wouldn’t finish the fourth as he allowed three runs before being pulled. After Chris Stratton allowed a two-run shot to Joey Wong, the Isotopes held a commanding 5-1 lead and Mazzaro’s stat line was complete.
The well-travelled Mazzaro threw just 59 pitches and finished the night with 3 1/3 innings pitched, five hits and four runs allowed.
In the first inning, the Cats got a couple of two-out hits to put them on the board. First baseman Juan Ciriaco doubled and catcher Andrew Susac singled him in to give Sacramento the 1-0 lead, but that would be all the offense could produce on the night.
Isotopes’ Harrison Musgrave shut down the Cats from then on out. Musgrave did so by making sure he kept a couple of the River Cats’ hottest hitters at bay. Center fielder Gorkys Hernandez, whose average had just surpassed .300 on the year, went 0 for 3 against the lefty and Ali Castillo, who boasted three multi-hit games since joining Sacramento went 0 for 2 against Musgrave.
The River Cats missed a good opportunity to claw their way back into the game in the sixth inning when Ciriaco reached base via a walk and Susac singled, but left fielder Chris Denorfia grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. Right fielder Ryan Lollis would fly out to end the inning.
In the eighth inning the Cats had the top of the order up and Hernandez reached base when he hit a shot that deflected off pitcher Brian Schlitter and second baseman Jeff Bianchi couldn’t handle it. But, the next batter, Castillo, grounded into a 6-4-3 double play on the first pitch he saw. It was the third double play of the game for Sacramento. Ciriaco would reach base with a walk but Susac then flew out to right fielder Jordan Patterson to end the inning.
Patterson, who was batting .328 for Albuquerque before the series started, saw his average drop to .311 after going 2 for 17 in the four-game set.
While the offense struggled, Sacramento’s relief pitchers had positive showings with Chris Stratton headlining. Stratton was a bright spot on the night after giving up the home run to Wong, he retired the next 11 Isotopes he faced to go 3 2/3 innings only giving up one earned run.
Alex Torres and Duke Welker each pitched a scoreless inning as well for the Cats.
Susac, who made a spectacular grab to end the top of the ninth inning and had the lone RBI on the night for the River Cats, gave a solid showing going 2 for 4 with a pair of hard hit balls.
The River Cats will now travel to Fresno to face the Grizzlies in a three game series which begins tomorrow night.

Ty Blach’s 2016: How Does it Compare?

13 Dec

Pitcher Ty Blach’s sensational 2016 season was capped off by receiving a call-up to the show. Now that he’s with the San Francisco Giants, the 25-year-old southpaw has a chance to show that his season in AAA with the Sacramento River Cats was no fluke.
Blach has only appeared in one game since joining the big leagues, but he showed just what kind of potential he possessed when he pitched three innings of shutout ball.
While Blach isn’t a consistent strikeout pitcher as many lefties are (Blach had no strikeouts in his three inning performance with the Giants), he has the ability to get a K when needed but relies on his precise control to dominate batters. In 162 2/3 innings with AAA, Blach struck out 113 batters while walking 38.
Blach’s 14 wins on the year with the River Cats was good enough to tie the team record. While the Giants have only partnered with the Cats for two seasons now, Sacramento has definitely had its fair share of pitching talent develop over the years.
While dominant, or mediocre, pitching in the minors doesn’t exactly matter, it’s interesting to see how a pitcher stacks up. So where exactly does Blach’s season compare to some of the best in River Cats history? A history that includes some prominent names such as Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Gio Gonzalez, among others.
Ty Blach 2016 Season:
In his second season with Sacramento, Blach pitched to the tune of a 14-7 record for a River Cats team that never really found a rhythm. The team went 69-75 and landed in last place in the Pacific Coast League Pacific Northern division.
But Blach, a representative in the AAA All-Star Game, made a killing every fifth day. Blach was undefeated for over a month spanning the end of June to the end of July as he went 5-0 over the stretch. This was the peak for Blach’s impressive season.
In those five games, Blach went 37 innings and only allowed four runs. Blach also had his first — and last — double-digit strikeout game on the year during the winning streak as he racked up 10 Ks against the Albuquerque Isotopes.
Blach finished the year with a 3.34 ERA and a 1.137 WHIP, according to Baseball Reference.
Justin Duchscherer 2003 Season
When talking about the River Cats all-time win record in a season, Duchscherer has held that title since 2003. His 14-2 season with the Cats that season was one for the books. His .875 win-percentage is obviously telling, but what’s truly worth noting is his strikeout-walk ratio.
Duchscherer had 117 punch outs in 155 innings but also only gave up 18 walks on the year.
His SO/BB was an outstanding 6.50, according to BB Ref. Blach’s was a 2.97 for comparison.
Duchscherer had a 3.25 ERA and a 1.090 WHIP during the 2003 season.
Jason Windsor 2006 Season
Unlike Duchscherer, Windsor never had a major league career after a season in which Windsor had a .929 win-percentage. Windsor went 13-1 in 2006 and had a 4.04 ERA. He had a 9.4 K/9 on his way to 123 strikeouts in 118 innings. Windsor also had a 1.356 WHIP.
After receiving a call for the Athletics in 2006, Windsor made four appearances but didn’t earn a win for the club. Windsor would go back down to the Cats in 2007 before he tore his labrum in his right shoulder (his pitching arm) and wasn’t able to make it back to the bigs. He retired in 2009.
Mike Wood 2004 Season
While names like Chad Bradford and Joe Blanton would be remembered for their time in the majors, Wood was leading the Cats in almost every pitching category in 2004. Wood went 11-3 in ’06 and had a premium 2.80 ERA.
Although Wood only made 15 starts, he made them count as he finished the season with 90 innings pitched (6 innings per start average). Wood’s 66/24 K/BB ratio wasn’t exactly mind-bending but he had a solid 1.189 WHIP. (BB Ref)
Wood would go on to play for the A’s, Royals and Rangers during his four years in the majors.
Clayton Blackburn 2015 Season
The first year the Giants affiliated with the capital’s own River Cats and 22-year-old Clayton Blackburn made his presence felt.
Blackburn led way for Sacramento with a 10-4 record and a 2.85 ERA. Blackburn just missed topping 100 Ks as he finished the year with 99 in 123 innings pitched. Blackburn also had a 1.293 ERA for the club.
Blackburn started off the 2015 season slow with losses in three of his first four appearances but he’d finish the season winning nine of his final 10 decisions to finish with the 10-4 year.
As consistent a season as you can have as a pitcher, Blackburn only allowed more than two earned runs twice the entire year. He had seven games where he allowed no earned runs.

Oakland Raiders Get Ballsy in Late Game Victory

13 Dec

Ballsy. That’s not exactly what I expected to lead a Raiders recap off with, but after Sunday’s performance there isn’t much else that describes the victory any better.

Whether it be Derek Carr’s flip for a first down or the end-all-be-all two-point conversion with under a minute to play in the game, the Raiders players and staff flaunted their cojones (figuratively, thank God) and earned a hard-fought, season-opening victory for the first time since 2011.

Heading into the Big Easy to face an offense as potent as the New Orleans Saints is no easy task but the Raiders were able to escape with a 35-34 win.

The Raiders started off the game well when Bruce Irvin stripped Drew Brees of the football in Saints’ territory, which led to a field goal for Oakland. The Saints responded with a field goal of their own before Latavius Murray rushed into the end zone to give Oakland a 10-3 lead.
It was then that the Raiders looked, well, like the Raiders of old. The Saints picked Oakland’s defense apart on their way to a 24-10 lead.

The Saints put up a 75-yard drive, an 80-yard drive and Brandin Cooks dusted Sean Smith for a 98-yard touchdown.

But, while some may have written the Raiders off, the team and their coaches were ready to battle back.
Heading into the final quarter down 24-13, the Raiders were able to drop 22 points on a Saints defense that saw one of their primary defensive backs, Delvin Breaux, go down with a leg injury.

While rookie Jalen Richard’s 75-yard touchdown run through New Orleans was a huge game-changer, it was overshadowed by the gutsy final drive Oakland had which ended with a Derek Carr touchdown to Seth Roberts and ultimately a one-on-one jump ball to Michael Crabtree, which gave the Raiders the lead.

Oakland’s front lines on offense and defense have been some of the most talked about this season and while the defense didn’t put as much pressure on Brees as they’d have liked, the offensive line dominated for most of the game allowing Carr adequate time to throw on countless occasions and opened up key holes for the Raiders’ second half rushing attack which thrived.

Player of the Game:
Derek Carr
24-38, 319 yards and 1 touchdown.
While the stat line isn’t crazy good for Carr, his leadership on the last drive was key to the team earning their first win of the year. Also, Carr completed passes to eight different receivers and had two successful two-point conversion throws, one to Amari Cooper and the aforementioned loft to Crabtree.

Room to Grow:
The Raiders offense stalled out plenty of times in the first half leading into the third quarter and that was mostly due to the run game not working. The team however stuck to the plan and were rewarded as the game went on. The Raiders, though, will need to get their run game going a little earlier if they hope to match up with some of the better defensive teams.