All-Star Outfield Picks…SEC East…Falcons Survival


It’s time to pick the outfielders on the Notebook’s season-ending All-Star ballot today. When I did this midseason and last year, I did the picks by position, rather than just taking the top three. The selection process was tweaked this year—I still insist on having one pure centerfielder to make it a realistic team, but the corner spots were chosen without regard to whether the player plays left or right. Here’s the picks in both leagues…

The centerfield job is a two-man race between Curtis Granderson for the Yankees and Jacoby Ellsbury for the Red Sox. The offensive stats are almost a dead heat, with on-base percentage being even, and Granderson’s edge in power being attributable to Yankee Stadium being a better home run park for a lefthander. Like any middle position, defense is critical here and Ellsbury stands out based on the metrics. The Sox centerfielder gets the nod here.

Jose Bautista is a mortal lock for one of the corner spots, with the only question left being the merits of the Toronto rightfielder’s MVP candidacy. With 42 home runs keying a .615 slugging percentage and a .445 on-base percentage, Bautista is the best offensive player in baseball. The other spot is an interesting call between Josh Hamilton in Texas and Alex Gordon for Kansas City. Hamilton, last year’s MVP, has the better power with a .537 slugging compared to Gordon’s .504. But Gordon is better at getting on base, .377 to .350, and he does it without the benefit of hitting in the Texas lineup. And due to Hamilton’s time on the disabled list, Gordon has over 140 more at-bats and with that gets the Notebook vote.

There’s quality at the centerfield spot, but Los Angeles’ Matt Kemp is still a very easy vote. Even allowing his defense is much worse than I would like to have at a key spot, his offense is just so extraordinary considering he hits in pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium that he just overwhelms the rest of the field. Kemp’s hit 34 home runs, his on-base percentage is .399 and he’s driven in 113 runs despite playing in a bad lineup. Honorable mention goes to Philadelphia’s Shane Victorino, whose recent slump cost him any shot at this nod, and Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen, whose solid .364 on-base percentage makes him the brightest of what the Steel City hopes is a rising group of stars.

The corner jobs are dominated by the Midwest as Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun and St. Louis’ Lance Berkman are decisive choices. Both are complete offensive packages, with OBP’s at or near the .400 level, 30-plus home runs and slugging percentages in the high .500s, with Braun challenging the .600 plateau. St. Louis’ Matt Holliday has had a very good year, but his numbers trail his teammate in Berkman, and some honorable mention goes to San Francisco’s Carlos Beltran and Arizona’s B.J. Upton, both of whom might have played their way into a vote with a stronger second half.

That concludes the everyday lineup selections, which now look like this…

C: Alex Avila/Brian McCann
1B: Miguel Cabrera/Joey Votto
2B: Robinson Cano/Brandon Phillips
3B: Adrian Beltre/Aramis Ramirez
SS: Yunel Escobar/Troy Tulowitzki

CF: Jacoby Ellsbury/Matt Kemp
OFs: Jose Bautista & Alex Gordon/Ryan Braun & Lance Berkman


The Western Division of the SEC might be where the big boys are, with #2 Alabama and #3 LSU joining defending national champ Auburn, but the winner of that division still has come through the Eastern champ at year’s end and the “other” division’s race is shaping up to be wide-open.

South Carolina, the preseason favorite, and Florida, the traditional power, are the only teams ranked in the Top 25 right now, at #12 and #15 respectively in the AP rankings. The Gamecocks haven’t looked the part of the favorite early on, playing some terrible defense against East Carolina, a team Virginia Tech shut down last week. Then the Gamecocks struggled past Navy at home. It’s important to note that the Mids have a good team and “only” beating them 24-21 is no shame. But it’s also fair to say that a team that was a top-heavy favorite would have done this more decisively at home. I can still give South Carolina the nod of favorite thanks to the presence of Steve Spurrier on the sideline and the incomparable Marcus Lattimore in the backfield, an imposing talent who calls to mind Herschel Walker, Ricky Williams and Ron Dayne when he runs. All of those three won Heisman Trophies (1982, 1998, 1999), so you can figure out where I’m going with this. But while I can say the Gamecocks are the favorite, the phrase “top-heavy” doesn’t come to mind.

Florida stepped up with a big win on Saturday when they beat Tennessee in a 33-23 final not as close as the score sounds. The Gators are playing some tough defense and Chris Rainey is having a great year out of the backfield, both running and catching the ball. The issue Florida is going to face is creating a passing game through some means other than dumping the ball to Rainey. To beat good teams, they need to get the ball to the outside and after a game with Kentucky on Saturday, good teams are exactly what are ahead—how about Alabama, LSU, and Auburn in succession. No bye weeks mixed in and the last two on the road.

The early surprise in this division has been Vanderbilt, who surprised with a win over UConn and then followed it up by hammering Ole Miss last week. The key to the success has been the run defense, which has been shutdown caliber in those two games. That alone will make the Commodores bowl-caliber, a level that will induce celebration in Nashville. If Vandy wants to do more, they need to clean up the penalties—they’re averaging nine flags a game in those two wins and they don’t have the kind of explosive passing game that can make up for that. And as for that run defense—they bring it to Columbia on Saturday night to meet Lattimore in what’s an unexpectedly interesting game.

Tennessee is still a team to keep an eye on, given that their loss to Florida was on the road, and there’s a good chance 6-2 will take this division. The Vols’ concern is that running back Tauren Poole was completely shut down in Gainesville and they need him to provide balance to the offense against contending teams. Georgia and Kentucky are the only teams that look like non-contenders right now, with the big question in Athens being how long Mark Richt survives.

The SEC East gets ESPN coverage on Saturday night with Florida-Kentucky (ESPN) and South Carolina-Vanderbilt (ESPN2) both going in the 7 PM ET window, and it promises to be a fun race all the way to Atlanta on the first Saturday in December.


As long as we’re on the topic of Atlanta and the SEC East, let’s stay in that neck of the woods to look at the Falcons, who pulled out a must-win game against Philadelphia on Sunday night to even their record at 1-1 and is looking ahead to a road trip in Tampa in Week 3.

I think everyone in Atlanta just has to be saying “Whew” after the rally from a 10-point deficit to beat the Michael Vick-less Eagles 35-31. There was not a lot in this win that suggests the Falcons are ready to again be a Super Bowl contender. The pass protection is terrible, as Matt Ryan has hit the deck nine times already. Granted, the defensive lines faced have been the Bears & Eagles, both of whom have some pass rushers. But if you profess to be a championship contender, these are the lines you have to be able to block, especially at home. Atlanta does a nice job running the ball with Michael Turner and they have receivers that Ryan can target on quick releases, with Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez, so there is no reason for these kinds of sack problems.


It’s tough for me to look beyond this flaw right now, but Atlanta still hasn’t really solved the secondary problems that Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay made so transparent in the playoffs last January. The Falcons have a lot going for them—they can run the ball and have a lot of great talent at the skill positions, but if you don’t protect the passer and you don’t defend in the secondary, you’re an 8-8 team. And that’s exactly what the Falcons are playing like right now. The positive is that taking advantage of Vick’s untimely exit on Sunday night and stealing this win, gives them a chance to fix the problems before the season slips away too quickly.


Themify Ultra

The most powerful & flexible WordPress theme created by Themify, making it easy to create any site quickly and beautifully (and responsive, of course). Take full control of your theme design from header to footer. Loaded with many layout options and features, it is by far the most versatile theme by Themify.

Drag & Drop Builder

Build unlimited responsive layouts using Themify’s popular drag & drop Builder.

Parallax Scrolling & Responsive

Design stunning parallax floating effects that works on all devices & resolution with the Builder.

All-Star Outfield Picks…SEC East…Falcons Survival

Pre-made Demos

With just a single click, you can import the demo setup that includes the theme settings, content, menus, widgets, etc., exactly like our theme demos. This is a time saver for creating client sites.

Coming soon

Coming soon

Smart Layout Options

Ultra gives you full control from header to footer, either site-wide or on a per-page basis. This means that you can make your entire site share the same look and feel or create a unique look for every page.

15 Header/Page Styles

Select a header/page design from 15 styles (the no header option is perfect for making landing pages where you don’t want to have header navigation). And yes, there is a sticky header option and this design list is growing!

6 Header Background Options

Header background allows you to: upload a background image, pick a solid color, insert a slider, upload a video, set animating colors, or have it transparent if you want.

6 Footer Layouts

6 footer layout choices with options to toggle visibility of footer logo, menu, widget, and credit text.

5 Single Post Layouts

In term of single post layout, there is a default layout plus 4 unique layouts.

6 Archive Layouts

For the archive layouts, we have 6 different styles that you can choose from: slider, fullwidth, masonry, grids, polaroid, and overlay. You may also toggle the visibility of the post elements such as post title, featured image, meta, content, etc.

Section Scrolling (*New)

Inspired by our Fullpane theme, full section scrolling feature allows viewers to scroll through your page design one row at a time like a presentation slideshow.

60+ Pre-designed Layouts

The Builder includes a huge library of pre-made layouts designed by professional designers. Simply import a layout, replace the text and images, and you’re done! You can get an awesome parallax landing page done in minutes.

10 Bonus Addons

Get the exact same layouts as our pre-made sites with 9 free Builder addons. Valued at $100, purchasing the Ultra theme will give you access to all these bonus addons for free.

Animating Colors



All-Star Outfield Picks…SEC East…Falcons Survival

Mega Menu

Mega menu allows you to display recent posts, multi-column menus, and even the ability to add widgets into the menu.

Image Filters

Auto-apply Grayscale, Blur, and Sephia filters to your images without editing the original image source (no Photoshop needed). Image filter and hover filter can apply globally or individually as you want.







All-Star Outfield Picks…SEC East…Falcons Survival


Looking to showcase your work and services? Ultra includes an optional portfolio that works seamlessly with all of the post layouts available for the blog posts. We even throw in a post filter as a bonus.

WooCommerce Shop

Wanna sell something? Great, Ultra has WooCommerce integration which matches the shop with the overall theme appearance.

All-Star Outfield Picks…SEC East…Falcons Survival

30 Day Money Back

Buy it with confidence. If you don’t like it, simply request a full refund within 30 days.