Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why the NFL’s statement is completely wrong

This is bullshit, and I’ll tell you exactly why it’s bullshit.  Here’s Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 5:

Simultaneous Catch. If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control. If the ball is muffed after simultaneous touching by two such players, all the players of the passing team become eligible to catch the loose ball. 

What you should be asking yourself is what it means to have “control.” Control is not possession. In fact, if you look at Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 4*, you’ll see “control” discussed in the context of “going to the ground (the Bert Emanuel rule). Control is necessary to establish possession, but control is NOT possession. Control is also discussed in sideline catches, going to the ground, and in the description of what constitutes a completed pass itself. (Rule 8, Article 3 (a))

 This is important because one might argue (still incorrectly, I would say) that Tate and Jennings had “simultaneous possession.” What I mean by that is that both had control of the ball, touched two feet (or a body part) in bounds, and maintained control long enough to perform an act common to the game. That’s possession. But that’s not the rule for determining that a simultaneous catch was made. That rule, again, says:

“It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control.”

Not possession. Control. Control comes before possession. Here is a picture of Jennings with control of the ball and Tate with control of Jennings arm.
Jennings had control first, hence no simultaneous catch, hence no touchdown. The NFL is spewing utter bullshit with this statement, and all you need to do is apply the rule properly to see it. They provided us with the rule and then pissed all over it.

 *Ball Touches Ground. If the ball touches the ground after the player secures control of it, it is a catch, provided that the player continues to maintain control.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Know The Fair Catch Kick!

At the end of the first half of the Pats-Ravens game the Patriots made a somewhat baffling decision to take a knee. The Pats still had two timeouts and if anyone can move a team down the field in under a minute, it’s Tom Brady.

The Ravens were content to let the Pats run out the clock, but had they been a bit more on the ball they probably could have forced a shot at a fair catch kick with an outside chance of blocking the punt for a TD or safety.

The Ravens took 2 timeouts into the locker room with them after Tom Brady knelt at his own 9 yard line with 16 seconds left. Had Baltimore taken a TO there it would have put the Pats in a 3rd and 11 situation with 15-16 second left and forced them to run another play. Had the Pats taken another knee the Ravens could have used their final timeout to force a punt from the Patriot 9 yard line or so.

Zoltan Mesko had 2 punts on the day for a 36.5 yard average with a long of 53. Assuming Mesko hit a 37 yard punt with the line of scrimmage as the 9 yard line, this would have put the ball at the Patriot 46 yard line, allowing Billy Cundiff a shot at a 56 yard-fair-catch kick. While Cundiff obviously struggled and is, by all accounts a substandard kicker, this would have been very low risk, and since the defending team may not attempt to block a fair catch kick, even poor kickers have extended range when trying them.

It is possible that once the Ravens started taking timeouts that the Pats would run some plays instead of merely taking a knee, but that also plays into the Ravens’ favor as it increases the chances for a turnover.

I should also acknowledge that forcing the Pats to punt is not without risk to the Ravens. The 49ers went out of their way to prove that. That said, the risk to the Pats is much higher.

In a fair catch kick situation, the returning team does not need gunners, just one or two returners to ensure that a fair catch can be made.* Everyone else can go all out for a block. This can lead to blocks and rushed, bad punts. A team trying to prevent a fair catch kick does have a few options. They can punt the ball out of bounds; however with over ten seconds remaining there is no guaranty that this will drain the entire clock. They can also attempt to kick away from the returners, but this increases the chances of a shorter kick.

It would have been very difficult for the Pats to prevent a fair catch kick once they kneeled themselves into 3rd down. Even kicking it out of bounds would have probably allowed the Ravens a long field goal attempt.

I’m a big fan of any weird NFL rule and there may not be any weirder rule than the fair catch kick. The Ravens deserved to lose for denying us the opportunity to see it.

*It's a good idea to put two players back there. You should have one player deep to field a standard punt, and one short to prevents a squib in an attempt to run out the clock (or an outright shank).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Should "women" play "sports?"

What’s that? A Women’s NBA? The Kaiser didn’t take my leg so I could see strumpets in hoops skirts tossing the old leatherball into perfectly good peach baskets, no sir! In my day women toiled 23 hours a day pausing only momentarily for sleeping, eating, the “lower” tasks, and perhaps 15 minutes of Bridge, which is, if you ask me, the only thing that should be played by women.

And with this new-fangled “Liberal Media” good luck finding someone to agree with someone like me. Fortunately you can still find sense on this glowy-technobox that my great granddaughter installed at the end of my death-cot last year in the form of Dave Begel of OnMilwaukee.com.

“With a nod to Julie Andrews and "The Sound of Music," here are two of my favorite things:”

Julie named “a few” of her favorite things which, in many parts of this great country is considered to be more than two, but I think we should cut Mr. Begel some slack since Julie is pretty needy in that song.


Who else would fix my oatmeal and clean my bedpan?


The boys and I did enjoy a fine game of “horse” when killing time between slaughtering Turks.

“And then there is women playing basketball, which doesn't even make the top 1,000 on the list of my favorite things. And please note that getting hit by a car but luckily only suffering a broken ankle does make my list.”

Indeed. My favorite things list stretches over 100,000 entries, and well over half includes me suffering some sort of affliction less severe than that which could reasonably be expected. Then again I’m a bit of a masochist. And a sociopath.

“The only reason I'm thinking about this is that I heard a pretty good rumor that two guys in Milwaukee are looking into the idea of having a WNBA team. They have already made preliminary forays into seeing what kind of dates and rent could be had at the Milwaukee Arena, which is now called something else but I forget what.”

A sentence about a “pretty good rumor” in which two men are “looking at the idea of having a WNBA team*” would have gotten one dishonorably discharged in my unit; however we should offer our charity to this scribe. He clearly has not experienced the same level of modern technology as I. If I can get the operator to ring this Begel I will offer to send my great granddaughter to his house to show him the Google on his glowy-technobox and we can finally unearth the name of this theater.

“When I was doing my usual amount of thorough research for this column, I had to go online to find out when the Women's National Basketball Association (known colloquially as the WNBA) played."


Perhaps his version of Google does not look up theater names. Good people of Milwaukee, someday this feature will arrive, I promise!

“I wasn't sure if they played in the dead of winter or the heat of summer or somewhere in between. I think summer is the answer with a slight overlap into early fall.”

Perhaps he was foiled after all, and really why provide solid facts when we can use conjecture and guessing?

“I've thought a great deal about the differences between the men's game and the women's game, and why the women's game puts me to sleep.”

It is undoubtedly the lack of mobility created by the bustle, the lack of appropriate footwear, the general female temperament, and, of course, the necessity of placing feinting couches every 20 feet in case of exhaustion or mania.

“Men play like they have jets attached to their shoes, women play like they have cement shoes.”

Ha! I’m sure we call got a good chuckle out of his juxtaposition of futuristic speed shoes with mafia execution devices. I know I did.

“Men play in the air, soaring above the fray, women play like a rugby scrum, unable to slide a piece of paper between their shoes and the floor.”**

Back in Europe we would occasionally take on the Brits in the vulgar version of Canadian football know as Rugby, and without question the most difficult portion of every game was obtaining a piece of paper to ensure everyone adhered to the “no lifting your feet while playing like a rugby scrum” rule. It was always an odd game made more striking by their inability to use proper English despite being English. That said I’ll never forget our stirring war cry, “Play like a rugby scrum today!”

“Men slap five when they make a good play, women clap furiously.”***

Just yesterday I was watching the Rams play on my black-and-white (color is vulgar and stunts the imagination) and went to high-five my nurse on a particularly tough Stephen Jackson run. Her subsequent furious clapping gave me such a start that I had to be sedated!

“Men push and shove and hit each other and dive into the stands, women say "ouch" and kind of wave at balls headed out of bounds.”****

It’s true. I just threw a Basket Ball at my nurse’s head and she just said “ouch” and waved.

“Just so people know that I am not strictly opposed to women playing basketball, I want to make it clear that I'm only opposed to and bored by them trying to play men's basketball.”*****

It was hard enough to get them to change the Women’s Men’s National Basketball Association to just the Women’s National Basketball Association.

“I love softball and women's tennis and skiing and golf and the lingerie football league (Let's get one of these teams, because these girls can really play) and even women's hockey. It's just basketball.”******

Don’t forget Foxy Boxing!

“And living up to my life goal of always trying to be nice and help people, let me offer an alternative. An alternative with lots of historic precedent as well.
Women should return to the way they used to play the game. The good old days.”

Let me just use the google on the thing…. Ah! The old 3-3 game. How I’ve missed you! Why, I’d almost forgotten…

“There are six players to a team. Three forwards and three guards. The forwards play on one side of the floor and the guards on the other. The forwards are the offense and the guards are the defense. A foul is called if a player steps over the half-court line.”

…during the inevitable slow-down that came from playing like rugby scrums the unoccupied side of the court would fix tea and crumpets for the male attendees. Occasionally we would engage in courtly dances, and I still remember old Johnson who courted, married, and witnessed the birth of his first child during a fe-male basket ball match.

“I am also in favor of making a few other rule changes, all of which have some historical precedent.”

You’ve made so much sense so far I look forward to hearing your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

“Women would be allowed only two dribbles. They would then have to pass or shoot.”

This rule is unnecessary as no woman is coordinated enough to dribble more than twice, however I also see no harm in it and one day some woman could conceivably master the third dribble. I’m in favor.

“A foul would be called if both feet of a player were off the floor at the same time.”

And the woman in question would have to immediately clean the scuff marks!

“If you touch an opposing player, it's a foul. If you touch an opposing player more than once, it's an automatic ejection.”

If it happens a third time we will keep an ignited stake courtside.

“And finally, I would add a mercy rule. If the game, which has only one period of 30 minutes, finds one team up by 20 points or more, the game is called and we all go home.”

And the ladies make us dinner. It is good to see that the wisdom of the early 1900s still has a champion in this day and age.

*Presumably by impregnating an NBA team?

**I must break misogynistic old dinosaur character to point out just how terrible this sentence is, and just how remarkable it is that someone was apparently paid to write it. None of these clauses go together. The tortured metaphor about the piece of paper refers back to the cement shoes from the sentence before when it should be referring to the rugby scrum comment. It doesn’t really matter because the rugby scrum comment doesn’t make any sense anyway. Rugby is an exciting, constantly moving game and it is in no way insulting to compare any form of basketball to any part of rugby. I suspect he’s never seen rugby. I’ve read this sentence like 25 times now and my brain hurts, so let’s move on.

***One of the reasons I wrote this as a senile 130-year-old war veteran is that doing a straight FJM on this is almost impossible because it’s almost too dumb for words. Seriously, men high five and women clap? Women clapping is a stereotype? Is it like how all Polish people where Rugby shirts.

****It was at this point in the article that I realized he may be going for a George Carlin “Baseball/Football” thing, and I’m still not 100% sure. I am 100% sure that George Carlin would claim that he is not.

*****Yeah, I didn’t know where he was going with this either.

******I just wanted to point out that he puts the qualifier “women’s” on tennis but not on softball or skiing or golf. Or lingerie football. Presumably he thinks men should never play these things?

Friday, December 2, 2011

On Tim Tebow…Again.

What is Tebow Good For?

First off I want to say that I love having Tebow in the league. I find this type of old-timey football immensely entertaining, and I’ always glad to see someone try unorthodox strategies. If someone is running Single Wing I’m happy. If someone tries having 2 QBs on the field simultaneously I’m really happy.

Second, I think the Broncos will win the West and perhaps even a playoff game even though I’m about to rip Tebow, but we’ll get to that (and why it doesn’t really matter) in a sec.

Tim Tebow does offer some positives and they are covered by this article. He does not turn the ball over that much for two reasons: 1. Low-risk plays and 2. Limited possessions. With a good defense that can work, and we know this already because we’ve seen it with Trent Dilfer and with Brad Johnson.

Tim Tebow is Bad At Passing. That’s a Bad Thing.

This raises the question: Is Tim Tebow really that novel? I’d assert that he is not. Michael Vick has been around for quite some time now, and while he hasn’t been running “the option” (and by the way, Tebow is not running “the option” in the conventional sense either, at least not yet. He runs the spread option which is actually pretty similar to a conventional passing offense with more QB runs. People talk about it like it’s the true, old-school triple option. It’s not. STOP CONFUSING THE OPTIONS.) he has forced defenses to account for a speedy QB. Ben Roethlisberger’s huge ass has required defensive coordinators to account for a QB who can shrug off lineman and buy time (as did Dante Culpepper before his catastrophic knee injury).* The difference is that these guys CAN pass, and this is where all the Tebow praise needs to take a step back. Tebow is a running QB who cannot pass, and this weakness is becoming a strength in the eyes of some. That’s dumb for the simple reason that teams that can pass are (almost always) more efficient than teams that run.**

Let’s use Football Outsider’s stats here since they’re context driven and incorporate things like turnovers. The top 6 offenses are: GB, NE, Hou, NO, Pitt, and the NYG. All of these teams rank highly in passing efficiency (even the Texans, who are 4th in rushing efficiency are 3rd in passing). In fact, their passing rankings almost perfectly sync up with their overall offensive rankings with Pitt the lone outlier (they are 7th in passing, 5th overall). The best rushing team (the Eagles) rank 9th overall, and the 2nd best rushing team (the Panthers) ranks 7th.

Let’s talk about the Panthers for a second because Cam Newton is an excellent runner in his own right. He is, in some ways, the Panther’s most valuable runner and you can make the case (as you can with Tebow) that his presence opens things up for his RBs. The difference is that Newton is also a decent passer (the Panthers are 12th in passing DVOA, not too shabby.) Here’s a question: Does anyone think that Carolina should run the option? They have talented RBs, and doing so would probably reduce turnovers. The obvious answer is no, because Carolina’s defense has been laughable (dead last in DVOA, behind even Indy). To win games the Panthers need MORE offense, and so Cam Newton needs to pass, because that is ultimately how you score points. This also means that the primary reason that Denver has been winning while scoring fewer points is their defense, and indeed, this appears to be the case.

The Denver Defense Is The Reason The Broncos Win.

On October 9th Tim Tebow entered the game against the San Diego Chargers and had a minor role in a stirring comeback that came up just short. The Broncos then had a bye and declared Tebow the starter. He subsequently managed an 18-15 win over a pretty bad Dolphin team (in front of a very friendly crowd) and in his next start was destroyed by a pretty good Lions team. (People tend to gloss over this game.) Anyway, something else interesting happened in their next game on November 6th against the Raiders. The day before Rotoworld wrote the following about Elvis Dumervil:

"Broncos RE Elvis Dumervil has yet to record a sack this season.

Dumervil has been active for only five games with nagging shoulder and ankle injuries that have impacted his ability to get to the corner with his signature up-and-under move. Dumervil will look to get on the board against Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer this week. Nov 5 - 10:15 AM"

Elvis Dumervil*** started the season dinged up. He missed time and was ineffective upon returning. Then against the Raiders it’s fair to say he got healthy. Dumervil recorded 1.5 sacks in that game and went on to record .5, 1.5, and 2.0 sacks in his next 3 games. Against Oakland all of his sacks were on 3rd down. Against KC his half sack came on 4th down in a one score game. Against the Jets he had another half sack on 3rd down and a full sack in the 4th quarter. Dumervil put Rivers in bad situations several times as well.

Elvis Dumervil recovering is just a one part of the total picture. DJ Williams missed the first 3 games of the season. Champ Bailey missed games 2, 3, and 4. Tebow, remember, came in at half-time of game 5. In the last Denver game (against San Diego) Williams led the team in tackles with 10 solo and 2 assists, Champ Bailey took Vincent Jackson out of the game, and Elvis Dumervil had 2 sacks. Of the stars on the Denver defense, only Von Miller has played in every game. All of the rest have missed time, and in every single one of those games Kyle Orton was the QB.

Tim Tebow may help out his defense a bit, but do you know what helps more? Having all of their best players.

There are two things you should look at when explaining the successes and failures on an NFL team. The first is injuries, which we just covered. The other is schedule.

Kyle Orton didn’t exactly play a murderer’s row, but his schedule was notably more difficult than Tebow’s. When Orton faced the Oakland Raiders in week 1 Darren McFadden ran at will (22 carries, 150 yards), and Oakland won a tight game (23-20) on a record-tying, 63-yard field goal from Sebastian Janikowski. Oakland had also not yet suffered several key defensive injuries (most notably Matt Shaugnessy****) while Denver was without Williams and Dumervil. When Tebow faced Oakland they were starting a fresh-off-the-boat Carson Palmer (3 picks), Michael Bush was in for Darren McFadden (though he is a quality player in his own right), and the Broncos had their full complement of defensive players.

When Orton started against San Diego (and replaced by Tebow at half time) Ryan Mathews had a huge game (24 carries, 125 yards) and Malcolm Floyd wasn’t hurt yet (3 catches, 100 yards). While Champ took away Jackson again, Floyd was able to exploit the other side and San Diego was able to put up 29 points. LT Marcus McNeil was also still around for this game.

In the second meeting Mathews was great again, but without Floyd opposite Vincent Jackson (and without McNeil) the Charger passing game couldn’t do a thing.

Orton actually played very well in a win over the Bengals, but had the misfortune of facing the juggernaut Packers without Champ Bailey or a fully healthy Dumervil (the Packers put up 49 points).*****

Orton’s Broncos suffered a narrow loss against the Titans, again without Bailey or Dumervil, and at a time when the Titans still had Kenny Britt (at least for 2 quarters. He was injured in this game).

The point is that Orton caught his opponents at the worst possible times. Tebow, on the other hand, had nothing but good fortune.

Aside from the Raiders and Chargers, he also started against a bad Miami team and was lucky to escape with a victory (Tebow was sacked 6 times and was fortunate to recover a fumble at one point). He beat a Chiefs team that is one of the worst in the NFL, and has been decimated by injuries. (And did so despite only completing 2 passes). The Jets, like the Broncos, try to play defense/ball control, but in their matchup Shonn Green was knocked out with an injury and they were already without Ladanian Tomlinson. Joe McKnight was their leading rusher with 16 carries for 59 yards. You’ll recall this as the game where Tebow had that ridiculous 20 yard TD run to win it when the Jets decided to blitz and not contain. If either Jet runner is available Tebow may never even get that chance.

Tebow’s luck is going to continue too as the Broncos have a pretty easy schedule the rest of the way (@Min, Chicago (with Hanie), NE (this is the one tough game), @Buffalo, KC again). I think it’s very likely that the Broncos either win the West or a wildcard with that schedule.

Wins, Causation, Correlation, Symbolism

Tebow critics (like me) should not be counting on a late season Tebow collapse. The Broncos schedule isn’t very difficult and it’s entirely possible that they’ll continue winning. This also shouldn’t be a problem for any halfway intelligent fan because, as we know, “wins” are a terrible way to measure individual performance, especially in a game with as many moving parts as football.

The Broncos will still win (probably) and their quarterback will still be terrible, and those two sentences are in no way contradictory. It’s easy for your average rube football fan to see Orton-losses, Tebow-wins and make the “obvious” association, but that is entirely correlation, not causation. This is exacerbated by Tebow’s outspoken Christianity. Christian fans want to believe in Tebow even if there’s no reason to do so. Being Christian is neither an asset nor a hindrance to football, but the fact is that there exists a substantial fan base with an inherent bias for Tebow. In the never-wanting-to-offend****** mainstream sports media, this colors the analysis further.

It’s really kind of a shame. The Denver defense should be getting far more credit than they are, and even when they do it’s usually limited to Von Miller. They’re a good story; they’re just not as good a story as the grindy upstanding Christian white boy who is seemingly overcoming his inability to do his job correctly.

I’d rank the factors in Tebow’s “success” as follows:

1. 1. Defense.

2. 2. Schedule.

3. 3. Luck.

4. 4. Tebow.

*Another problem that Tebow is likely to face is injury. He runs to contact and backs who run to contact tend to have short shelf lives. Toss in the notion that the punishment he takes could impact his already substandard passing further and it’s hard to see this working long term. Culpepper missed time in 01 and 03, and had his career cut short in his prime by injury. Roethlisberger has been in the league for 8 years and if he plays in 16 games this season it will be only the 2nd time. Something to keep in mind.

**They run this offense because of what Tebow CANNOT do, which means that any talented runner with less-than-stellar passing can probably run it too. Tommy Frazier is probably kicking himself right now.

***Von Miller gets all the press, but Dumervil is exactly 2 seasons removed from leading the league in sacks with 17. He is a huge impact player when healthy.

****Here’s Rotoworld on Shaughnessy just after he was placed on IR: “Shaughnessy hadn't played since Week 3, but it's still a big loss for a Raiders defensive line hoping to get back its best end later in the year. The 25-year-old former third-round steal racked up seven sacks and graded out as Pro Football Focus' No. 5 run-stopping defensive end last season. Oakland will close out the year using a rotation of Jarvis Moss and Kamerion Wimbley at right defensive end. Shaughnessy will return in 2012 on a cheap, $565,000 base salary.”

*****Not having your top corner against the Packers is about as bad as it gets. It’s a bit like losing your ace in baseball as the guy that replaces him isn’t the 2nd or 3rd or 4th or 5th best pitcher on the team, it’s the 6th best starter. It’s always a HUGE drop-off. The Packers are so deep at WR that starting practice squad-level talent at CB is a recipe for failure.

******Except for guys like Cowherd and Bayless who offend in calculated and incredibly stupid ways just to rile you up.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tim Tebow and QBR: Frauds of a Feather

First read this. I’ll cut and paste the important bits:

Tim Tebow (83.2 Total QBR) Makes Case To Be Broncos’ Starter

Tim Tebow came in for Kyle Orton at halftime and almost led the Broncos back from a double-digit deficit against the Chargers. Both quarterbacks were on the field for six drives. Orton led the Broncos to just three points while he was on the field (the Broncos' only first-half TD came on a defensive return) and threw an interception, while Tebow led the Broncos to two touchdowns and had no turnovers.

While Tebow's rally fell just short, he finished the game with an excellent Total QBR of 83.2, while Orton's ineptitude resulted in a paltry score of 5.1.

This is so very very stupid.

If you want to be successful, you need to either put yourself in situations where picking up a first down is likely, or pick up first downs. You need to have a high completion percentage and you need to pick up yards with those completions. ESPN’s new QBR thinks that Tim Tebow had quite the day on Sunday. 83.2 is a high number. (The highest of the year, equally ridiculous, is Alex Smith's 98.2 against the Bucs on Sunday.) It is higher than Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. So what did Tim Tebow do to “earn” this ranking?

Well, he threw 10 passes, completing 4 (40%!), and ran 6 times. And what did those look like?

Tebow’s 1st run, 2nd quarter – gain of 2 yards on first down, putting Kyle Orton in a bad situation (which he converted, by the way)

Tebow would then take over in the 2nd half.

Tebow’s 1st pass, 3rd and 8 – complete to Decker for no gain. One of Tebow’s 4 completions is a huge negative play in that it results in a punt. Checking down on 3rd and 8 when you’re down 23-10 is just not a good idea.

Tebow’s 2nd and 3rd passes, on 2nd and 7 and 3rd and 7 respectively – incomplete. Tebow’s second series is another 3-and-out resulting in a punt.

Those were Tebow’s only plays of the 3rd quarter. Nick Novak would hit a 51 yard field goal on the ensuing drive putting the Broncos in a 16 point hole.

Tebow’s 4th pass – 1st and 10, incomplete.

There are now 13 minutes left in the game. Tebow has been a disaster and the Broncos are in a 2-score hole (if they’re lucky on 2-point attempts). You’re probably thinking that this is where Tebow turns it around. Well…

Tebow’s 2nd run, 2nd and 9, for 5 yards. This brought up 3rd and 4, which is at least manageable, however…

Tebow’s 5th pass – 3rd and 4, incomplete.

Yup, another punt. The Broncos gave it back to the Chargers, down 16 with 11 minutes to go. They would give up one first down to the Chargers and get the ball back with under 9 minutes to play. A nice punt return (15 yards) and a 28-yard run by Willis McGahee would take the Broncos all the way to the SD 23 yard line. We then have…

Tebow’s 3rd, 4th, and 5th runs, for 11 yards, no gain, and 12 yards and a TD.

Almost all of Tebow’s value comes on this sequence, and it’s not like it’s not valuable, it’s just that special teams and McGahee put him in a good spot, and he didn’t do anything that McGahee (who also took in the 2-pointer) didn’t do on this drive.

On the next drive Tebow was again the recipient of excellent field position after a Philip Rivers fumble. Denver recovered at the SD 41. At this point we have:

Tebow’s 6th run, 1st and 10, 8 yards.

Followed up a few plays later by,

Tebow’s 6th pass, 1st and 10 at the SD 28, I’ll quote the NFL gamebook directly:

“(3:30) (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow pass short right to 27-K.Moreno for 28 yards, TOUCHDOWN.”

This was a screen pass to a RB. It’s the kind of pass that basically anyone can throw. It’s a nice play, but it doesn’t tell you as much about Tebow as Aaron Rodgers 70 yard TD to James Jones tells you about him (for instance).

So the Broncos were down by 2 at which point we get a HUGELY negative play that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet or, apparently, in QBR, that being:

Tim Tebow’s Two Point Conversion Attempt – Incomplete, fails.

Yes, with an opportunity to tie the game Tebow failed to complete a pass to Brandon Lloyd, another huge negative play.

Because of this failure the Broncos found themselves down 2 with under 3:30 to play without the ball. Because of this failure the Broncos at this point had almost no chance to win. And in fact the Chargers would run off almost all of the time and kick a FG to go up by 5, leaving the Broncos only 24 seconds.

At this point we get Tebow’s final 4 passes. With only 24 seconds left and down by 5, a FG does no good, so SD dropped into prevent. If you want to know where Tebow got all of his passing yards,

Tebow’s 7th pass – 1st and 10 from the Denver 20, Complete to Lloyd for 20 yards.

Tebow’s 8th pass – 1st and 10 from the Denver 40, Complete to Fells for 31 yards.

Tebow’s 9th pass – spiked.

Tebow’s 10th pass – Incomplete to Willis. Game over.

In short, to approve of this performance by Tebow you have to ignore the fact that he had three 3-and-outs when the game was still reasonably in reach, that he put his team in bad positions several times over, that most of his passing yardage came in garbage time when San Diego was simply trying to prevent a long TD, that he failed on a 2-point conversion which was probably the single-largest WPA play of the day, and that he benefitted from great field position provided by his defense, RB, and special teams.

To claim that his game was better than Aaron Rodgers' which featured a come-from-behind victory that solidly put Atlanta away, a higher completion percentage, more TDs, more yards, and success in ways that surely increased his team’s chances of winning more than Tebow's, is just silly.

QBR looks worse every week. Only ESPN knows the exact formula and absent the ability to provide context for some of their more unorthodox rankings, it looks to be completely useless. Overrating Tim Tebow is such an ESPN thing to do, one wonders if this metric was created to adhere towards certain narratives than to provide any sort of meaningful analysis.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Roenicke's Bullpen Flowchart

This is brilliant.

Tragedy of Errors

Look, bitching about the manger is one of the oldest traditions in sports and it can frequently mark you as a mouth-breathing, talk-radio show calling ignoramus, and I understand that, but the last two games from Ron Roenicke have just been complete debacles. Train wrecks. Ron Roenicke didn't see the iceberg. Ron Roenicke decided to go with Hydrogen over Helium.

And what makes it all the more maddening is that just a few days ago I watched the Dallas Mavericks put research and analysis to work to win the NBA Championship. (Read this post by John Hollinger. Rick Carlisle was fantastic, and Roland Beech was the first person I ever read who put sabermetric-style analysis to a sport other than baseball.)

And I could point out all kinds of examples of Ron not using his lefty correctly, not understanding platoon splits, and not pinch hitting. I could bring up the "8th inning guy" thing again. But why be so complicated? I have an example that flies in the face of traditional baseball notions AND advanced stats, as if he was trying to be as wrong as possible.

In the 10th inning last night, he brought in Tim Dillard. Crappy, grindy fast guy Tony Campana promptly doubles to lead off the inning and is sacrificed to third by Kosuke Fukudome, bringing up Starlin Castro.

Now, in this situation, the following things are true:

1. Tony Campana is very fast. Even with an extra infielder he is pretty likely to score on a ball in play. He is the only runner that matters.

2. Tim Dillard doesn't strike a lot of people out, and induces ground balls about 46% of the time, and FBs/LDs about 54% of the time.

3. Your best chance to get out of the inning involves either a double play or a SO.

4. Starlin Castro, who cannot hit into a DP because no one is on first, only strikes out about 12% of the time. The rest of the time he either walks or puts the ball in play, and he only walks 3.5% of the time.

5. Starlin Castro is exceedingly likely to put the ball in play and drive in the winning run.

6. Aramis Ramirez is on deck. He hits GBs 35.6% of the time. This year he has struck out about 12% of the time, but for his career he has struck out 15.4% of the time.

7. Tango's win expectancy chart recommends walking the batter in this situation absent other information (i.e. who is pitching, hitting, on base, etc.)

8. You could also choose to walk Ramirez as well and pitch to Carlos Pena. This raises the possibility of walking in the winning run, but consider....

9. Carlos Pena for his career strikes out 31.3% of the time.

10. And Carlos Pena for his career, hits ground balls 37% of the time on balls in play.

In this situation, I think you should pitch to Pena. He's somewhat likely to ground into a DP, he's fairly likely to strike out, and the pitcher's spot is on deck at that point, so the Cubs would have to go to their pretty awful bench at that point. What would be even better is if the Brewers had another lefty in the pen at which point it's a no-brainer. Given that they didn't, I suppose it's defensible to pitch to Ramirez instead. It is completely indefensible to pitch to Castro.

And you know what else would have helped? Having Kam Loe available, as he truthfully has no special powers in the 8th inning, but does have a special power of inducing ground balls 56% of the time, or 12% more frequently than Dillard. But you used him in the 8th inning last night against players who are a poor matchup for his skillset, and for the 3rd night in a row, so he wasn't available.

One more fact for you. Dillard, for his career, strikes out about 5 people per nine. A strike out helps you a lot in this situation. You know who is better at striking people out? John Axford, that's who. He strikes out almost 12 per nine innings. But we had to save him for the save situation that never came to pass. At least he's well rested. (And by the way, the Cubs DID use their closer to get out of a similar jam, so don't tell me that no managers do things like that.)

I grant you that there were thousands of ways to avoid getting into this situation in the first place and I'm sure that all of these will be criticized as well, but I think this situation really shows the lack of thinking going on in the Brewer dugout.

A baseball team is a multi-million dollar investment, and wins add revenue and add value. I will never understand how owners can still entrust these enterprises to people who rely on folk-wisdom, gut feeling, and the concept of "8th inning guys".