Sunday, November 30, 2008
What does not work well is trying to pound a RB through the middle of a line (especially if that line excels at run-stuffing), by simply powering forward.
My problem with the play calling on the Packer's penultimate drive, which resulted in a field goal when they needed a touchdown, is not that they ran. The problem is HOW they ran.
Brandon Jackson had a great game (he's been better than Ryan Grant for a long time now) and he was instrumental in their rally today. Jackson is an excellent zone-block runner. He has good vision, he sees the lanes, and he has the speed to break long gains where available. On the goal line, what you want to do with Jackson is the same thing you want to do at the 50 yard line; isolate your blockers, see who can create a lane, and let Jackson find it.
Just because you're 2 inches away does not mean that you should stray from your fundamentals. In today's game, Jackson had carries o 24, -2 (also in a bunch formation), 2, 32, 3, 5, 1, 4, 5, 6, and 0 yards. That 0, and the subsequent run by Kuhn, were both from Power formations.
I've never understood this formation, as the field does not get any narrower as you get closer to the goal line, and the bunched formation takes all of that lateral space out of the equation. This only helps the defense.
Anyway, that series of play-calling was atrocious.
2. What was also atrocious was the run defense. Justin Harrell is supposed to be a run stuffer. Did he play today? I honestly don't know.
Injuries aren't helping, but the offense certainly played well enough to win today, however, at no point did I expect any Carolina RB to gain fewer than 5 yards.
Playoffs?! What are you talking about Playoffs? Playoffs? I mean...
It's really tough now, but still not impossible. Running the table against Texas, Jacksonville, Chicago, and Detroit is completely possible, and assuming that the Vikings win tonight, it's easy to imagine them losing to Atlanta, Arizona, and New York down the stretch. That said, everything will have to go right for the Pack. It's probably over, but maybe they can still make it interesting.
Derrick Frost nets only 36.1. By the way, those two guys I mentioned who are way better than Derrick Frost rank only 15th and 19th respectively. They're not even good. Mike Scifres of San Diego averages 42.7.
Derrick Frost has punted 48 times for a net yardage gain of 1732.8 yards. Had Mike Scifres taken those punts, he would have accounted for 2049.6 yards. That's over 300 yards of field position. Jon Ryan, an average punter if ever there was one, would have added an extra 86.4 yards for the Pack.
The Green Bay Packers average 5.3 yards per play. This means that having Derrick Frost instead of Jon Ryan has necessitated that the Packer offense run an extra 16 plays. Those 16 plays were required just to get the Packers to the spot they would have been at had Jon Ryan, and not Derrick Frost, been punting. Had the Packers been fortunate enough to employ Mike Scifres, they would have required 60 fewer plays to gain the same field position.
Those plays gain you nothing except what your special teams has cost you, but while they gain you nothing, they provide ample opportunity for turnovers, penalties, and injuries.
Every minute that Derrick Frost remains the punter is a mistake.
UPDATE: They Released him.
Friday, November 28, 2008
1. Overreaction to the Ravens game.
I try hard not to let one game effect my judgement, however the Ravens game was to some extent "the straw that broke the camel's back" for me. I can survive low point games from my QB, but the negative disaster was pretty rough on my psyche. And Reid pulled the guy! He was probably on a short leash against the Cardinals. Sure he threw 4 TDs, but what if he would have thrown two early picks again?
That said, I should have looked at the Cardinals more closely, as passing games have torn them up.
2. The Trent Edwards Matchup.
My backup QB is Trent Edwards. Not a bad player, really. Anyway, while McNabb faced a bad Cardinal secondary (which was made slightly better by the addition of a healthy Adrian Wilson), Edwards faces an even worse San Francisco secondary. Here though I may also be facing some "what have you done for me lately" bias, as Edwards was great last week. Moreover, if you look at Edwards stats he has clearly been vastly inferior to McNabb, even against bad teams. It is looking more and more like an emotional, and not a rational decision.
3. Brian Westbrook's injuries.
I've had Brian Westbrook many times and know to play him even when he is questionable. So why not this time? Arizona is a respectable 8th against the run (another reason to play McNabb, you idiot), and Westbrook has been pretty bad of late. He had not rushed for over 61 yards since week 8 when he blew up for 167 agaisnt the Falcons. He also had not scored a TD since week 8. In past seasons Westbrook's pass-catching ability has put him above almost every other back in the league, but this season he has not had a receiving TD since week 2, and he hasn't gone over 42 yards receiving since week 5. Add in the fact that he would be working this week on short rest on an injured ankle, and he looks fairly unnattractive. And to some extent, his two receiving TDs yesterday were pretty flukey.
4. Better Alternatives?
Here though, we must consider our alternatives. We have (maybe) Steven Jackson, who has missed (basically) 5 weeks with a quad injury. He's reportedly healthy, but he might not be. And even so, he's on a bad Rams team that plays a decent Miami run defense. We also have RBBC members Le'Ron McClain, whom might be alright against a pretty bad Cinci run defense, or Derrick Ward against a lackluster Washington run defense (but Jacobs is probably back) or Pierre Thomas against a stout Tampa defense.
None of those look terribly attractive, except maybe McClain.
Anyway, my ultimate problem was that I failed to perform the following exercise. Imagine that you are forced to bet your life on who will score more fantasy points. McNabb v. Edwards, and Westbrook v. Jackson, etc.
I would almost certainly have taken McNabb and Westbrook. But I didn't. Which means I was not acting rationally this week. I was flustered by the Thursday games, and by recent events.
Oh well, live and learn.
McNabb is a very frustrating fantasy player.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
(In all honesty, he did average 10.4 strike-outs per nine innings in the minors with a 1.58 ERA).
The Saints have quietly put together a historically good offense, and in particular, an amazing passing game. Many thought that an early injury to Marques Colston would derail the Saints, but the discovery of Lance Moore, a couple of OK tight ends, and Reggie Bush have combined to make this a truly deadly attack. Moreover, it makes the Saints capable of exploiting a major Packer weakness.
Ever since Cullen Jenkins went down with a torn pec the Packers have struggled to generate a pass rush. They choose to keep Aaron Kampman on the strong side (I believe because seeing him coming at you is almost as disruptive as not seeing him coming at you), which makes him easier to deal with for calm QBs. To generate a pass rush, the Packers are often forced to blitz. On Lance Moore's first touchdown Charles Woodson came on a blitz and failed to get there leaving Moore in single coverage with Atari Bigby. Bigby had no chance.
Both Bigby and Aaron Rouse are rather slow, and better in run support than pass coverage. Once the Saints noticed this they exploited it again and again, using their WR depth to create impossible matchups. Compounding problems was A.J. Hawk's shocking lack of speed. Hawk is also suffering from injuries which have really hurt his pursuit. On Monday, he frequently failed to get a deep enough drop in pass coverage which led to one easy touchdown early, and a huge gap between LB and safety that was exploited by Shockey and Billy Miller.
Miller also abused Aaron Kampman up front, often releasing downfield into a wide open area, and taking advantage of Kampman's overaggressive behavior.
The complete inability to stop the run compounded all of these problems, as the Pack could not spare any of their front 7 for an extra DB without being gouged for 7 yards a clip.
This was, in short, a complete defensive breakdown precipitated by injuries, and superior Saints personnel.
On offense the Packers were fine until two things happened.
1. Greg Jennings fell down at the same time that Aaron Rodgers made a poor throw, allowing one of the league's worst DBs to pick an errant pass and put the Saints up by 3 scores.
2. They abandoned the run.
Once the Packers were backed into a corner and went exclusively to the pass it all spiraled out of control. This was compounded by the knowledge that the defense was completely unable to stop the Saints offense in any way. I don't know or care if any rubes are claiming that Favre would have won this game. Maybe he would have. But this seems to me like one of those games where Favre would have thrown 6 picks, forced to keep up with a scoring machine on the other side. "Rams Game" springs immediately to mind.
I'm not sure that there is much to be learned from this game. The Packers are certainly backed into a corner and have to be considered huge underdogs to make the playoffs. The advantage they have is another game against the Bears with the possibility (with a season sweep) of gaining two games on them by beating them once. The Vikings still face the Bears, Cardinals, Falcons, and Giants down the stretch and should lose a few of those. The Pack has a tough game coming up against Carolina, but then faces a struggling Texans team and a struggling Jaguars team before finishing up with the Bears and Lions. The Bears have a similar schedule except they still have to face this New Orleans team.
Conventional wisdom is that it will take 10 wins to take the North, but I can see 8 getting it done. I wouldn't count on it, but it's possible. At any rate, while we have little margin for error, we're not dead yet.
1. Frost is just terrible. If we miss the playoffs by one game it will be because of our punter. That is infuriating.
2. Why did we lock up Brady Poppinga through 2012? Does Thompson foresee a scarcity of mediocre linebackers on the market in the near future?
3. I believe the Packers made an early strategic decision to have Mason Crosby keep the ball in play on his kickoffs, which cost them at the end of the first half when poor coverage cost the team a field goal. After that, Mason boomed them through the end zone.
4. A lot of players were slipping on the turf. How can an indoor stadium with fake grass suffer from bad field conditions?
5. Aaron Rodgers missed easy touchdowns to Greg Jennings at lest twice early in the game by underthrowing the ball.
6. For all of the bad Packer play, that Lance Moore pass has to be one of the stupidest calls ever, and momentarily kept the Packers in the game.
7. Mark Tauscher's loss hurt more than people realized.
8. Can I really start Donovan McNabb again after last week? The Cardinals are bad against the pass.
9. Who do we cheer for next week, the Bears or the Vikings? I say the Bears.
Two New York City Council members say that Citigroup should show its thanks for a federal bailout by sharing the naming rights to the new Mets ballpark in Queens.
The struggling bank is slated to pay $400 million over the next 20 years to name the stadium Citi Field.
The bank made the commitment years ago, when it was flush with cash. Now that Citigroup is getting billions of dollars in federal aid, Staten Island Republicans Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo say the ballpark's name should be changed to Citi/Taxpayer Field.
Citigroup and Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon have been saying that they have no plan to alter the naming-rights deal for the ballpark, which hosts its regular-season opener April 13.
Wilpon and Citigroup spokesman Steve Silverman said they had no comment on the proposal.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
1. A Minnesota team record two safeties against a Wisconsin team, and the following week, a Wisconsin team record two safeties against a Minnesota team.
2. A tie. In which one QB admitted to not knowing that ties happen in the NFL.
3. The first 11-10 final score in NFL history on an improperly disallowed defensive score on the last play of the game.
4. The Wisconsin Badgers winning a game in overtime against a division 2 team, after trailing all day, because the division two team missed 3 PATs, including one in overtime.
I happen to know for a fact that I can hit 70% of my PATs even after downing 6 shots of tequila. At least I used to be able to.
5. A fair catch kick! And an ugly one at that.
Non-fun fact: The last successful fair catch kick in the NFL was by Mac Percival in 1968, scoring the game-winning field goal for the Chicago Bears against the Green Bay Packers.
Tom Brady_______Matt Cassel
Instead of Le'Ron McClain (12 points in my league) I started Jerious Norwood (0, while teammate Michael Turner took it in 4 times).
Instead of Trent Edwards (34 points) I started McNabb (and I get Kolb's stats too! For a grand total of -8). So my QB decision cost me 42 points. Awesome.
Instead of Steve Gostkowski (14) I started Matt Prater (4). My WRs combined for 5. I will be lucky to break 20 points this week. I'm not happy.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
The Bucks couldn't hold a big third quarter lead against Utah last night and fell to the Jazz 105 to 94. The Bucks fell back by 10 in the first quarter, but rallied big in the second to take a 2 point lead at the half. They held the lead going into the final quarter, but Utah pulled away. Jefferson had 25 points, while Bogut added 16 points and 20 rebounds. Mbah a Moute went down hard in the 2nd quarter, which looked like bad news for an already shorthanded team, but he returned to start the second half and finished the game with 8 points and 7 rebounds. The Bucks are 5 and 8 on the season. A few points:
- The Schedule. The schedule seems ridiculous. The Bucks played their fourth consecutive back-to-back set of games, with 5 of those 8 games on the road. They have back-to-back games at New York and against Chicago this weekend.
- Richard Jefferson. Jefferson spoke about being disappointed in his performance after the Bucks' loss to Denver, and came up big last night with 23 points in the first 28 minutes and lead the Bucks' second quarter come-back.
- Andrew Bogut. Bogut played strong against Boozer and is starting to look like an offensive and rebounding stud. Most of the time.
- Home Court advantage. I was in Salt Lake City last year for work and was walking around the city just as a Jazz game was letting out. I don't know numbers or anything, but it had to have been a sell-out and something like 90% of the fans were wearing Jazz gear. I guess it's the only show in town and they have a strong tradition of winning, but I'd love to see that kind of support in Milwaukee. Besides all the crazy drinking laws, Salt Lake City is a cool town.
The C.C. Sabathia Sweepstakes. A poster at BCB put together this spreadsheet comparing the Brewers' alleged $100 Million/5 years offer to the Yankee's alleged $140 Million/6 years. Another poster also compared the offers. Basically, between taxes and cost of living, depending on how much money Sabathia wants to spend in his new community, the offers are pretty similar. The tax difference in New York could take an additional 10-15% bite out of his contract. If that number is around 13%, the offers are about the same on an annualized basis. It's also important to consider the next contract. Although getting locked in now is important, Sabathia's odds of staying healthy and productive for the next 5 years are greater than him staying healthy and productive for the next 6 years. The other money factor to consider is present value. Player salaries inflate faster than real world inflation. How much with Sabathia really be worth in 6 years versus what the Yankees are offering him in that year? It's all arguable, but the Yankee's money advantage, at least with their present offer, is not a slam dunk over the Brewers.
A gentleman's game. There's a quote in The Legend of Bagger Vance that I'm probably going to get totally wrong, but a google search isn't coming up with anything. Young Hardy Greaves says, "Golf is the greatest game in the world. It's fun, it's hard, and you call your own fouls. If you're honest. And most people are." Pro Golfer and Appleton, Wisconsin native, J.P. Hayes proved it two days ago when he realized he had played one hole in one round of the second stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School with an non-conforming ball. This cost him a chance to qualify for either the PGA or the Nationwide tour. That's refreshing in today's sports world.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
The Bucks lost to the defending chamion Celtics 102-97 in overtime on Saturday. They started the game with both Redd and Charlie Villanueva on the bench and would end the game with Bogut in the locker room. Given these facts, the Bucks played a hell of a game. Or at least they played two good quarters, one bad quarter and an outstanding fourth-quarter in which they came back from a 12 point deficit to take the game to overtime. Bogut was ejected in the 4th quarter which forced the Bucks to play Dan Gadzuric against kevin Garnett. That and some bad shooting were enough to put an end to the Bucks late game run. A few notes:
- Michael Redd. In a lot of ways, the Bucks are better without Redd than they are with him. Lately they've been showing a lot of hustle and tough defense that would lose something with Redd on the court. It would have been great to have Redd come off the bench when we really needed points--nobody can argue that he's not a great scorer--but he could never be bench player on the Bucks.
- The Guards. Both Ramon Sessions and Luke Ridnour are playing great basketball right now. Against the Celtics, Ridnour took it to overtime with a lay-up. The day before, it was Sessions who tied the game with a 3-pointer to head to overtime against Memphis. On Saturday, Ridnour was 5/7 from the field and 3/4 from 3-point range.
- Bogut. Andrew Bogut has learned to score over the last few weeks. After starting the season cold, he's been tearing it up the last few games. He had 20 by the time he was ejected--5 points better than Kevin Garnett, who he also out-rebounded 9 to 7.
- The Refs. Bogut got punched in the face and was thrown out of the game for it. The puncher, Kevin Garnett, wasn't. I realize it was Bogut's second technical and only Garnett's first, and that I don't understand the rules of NBA basketball, but this call was bullshit. Also, there were a number of other bullshit calls, including some nonsense where sessions got fouled but had to take a jump ball instead of getting shots.
- The Kids. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has been awesome. He started the season as an athletic, energetic bench guy with strong defense. Now he starts and he can score. He added 14 points to go with his 9 rebounds against the Celtics. Potsie [Joe Alexander] is coming along alright too. With Charlie V, Redd and Bogut unavailable, he saw some playing time and held his own for the most part.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Anyway, I suspect there is not much to be learned from this week's drubbing of the Bears, except perhaps that Nick Barnett is not that important, and that Rex Grossman is apparently just Kyle Orton with a bum ankle.
What I would like to discuss is all of the weirdness. You know, like:
The Minnesota Vikings, last week, recording two safeties against the Green Bay Packers, followed by the Wisconsin Badgers, getting two safeties this week against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. I've never seen two safeties in a game, and then it happens twice in one week in some weird parallel way.
The NFL's first ever 11-10 score happened yesterday when the Steelers beat the Chargers.
The last play of that game was incorrectly ruled dead when it should have been a TD for the Steeler defense. This allegedly led to a 64 million dollar swing in winners and losers in Vegas.
There was a frickin' tie!
Donovan McNabb did not know that NFL games could end in ties!
I need a drink.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Someone over at MLBTradeRumors took the time to put together a nice Excel spreadsheet chronicling the trades of Doug Melvin.
His first trade ever? Moving Jose Canseco to the Red Sox. Shrewd Doug, very shrewd.
I also forgot that he had traded for Villanueva, that De La Rosa's entire net was Graffanino (ugh), and can't help but think Gabe Gross could have been pretty damn valuable on the team this year. Josh Butler? He'll never make the squad.
Direct DL link here
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
I will raise high my Fremulon Insurance coffee mug and toast these warriors of sports journalism on the their final day.
Interestingly, the rest of the NL seems to be making those losses a bit easier on the Brewers.
The Cubs traded in order to downgrade their bullpen. Sweet! The Brewers should go hard after Wood. He's a very good bullpen arm who doesn't walk guys and doesn't put guys on base. Despite pitching in Wrigley as often as he did, Wood only gave up 3 long balls.
If the Brewers were willing to take a $10 million flier on Gagne, there is no reason they shouldn't pony up for Wood.
Secondly, Randy Johnson is a free agent. Johnson made $15 million last year, so I don't really know what his price will be, but assuming there is an ugly old man discount, I'd have no problem with the Brewers giving him 3 at $36 or so. It'll likely be the longest offer he gets (he is 44 for God's sake), but his lack of precipitous decline and his ability to adjust to his changing skill set tell me he has some years left in that old left arm.
When it comes right down to it, I'd rather have an old Randy Johnson than an unreliable Ben Sheets.
There are obviously other options out there, but I would love to see the Brewers strike hard and fast and make an early splash. Sign Johnson to solidify the rotation, sign Wood to bolster the bullpen and then start wheeling and dealing to fill out the roster.
The offseason essentially starts today. The following are my goals for the Brewers:
1. Sign a #3 level (at least) starting pitcher
2. Sign a dominant bullpen arm
3. Improve 3rd base
4. Improve 2nd (Ronnie Belliard is my current desire)
By the end of today, all hopes will have been dashed of signing CC Sabathia. The Yankees will come out with an offer designed to scare off all competitors, and it will work, at least in the Brewers case. I expect Sabathia's contract to shame Santana's and him to sign with the Yankees by Wednesday. And if the money is what I guess it will be, he'd be a total fool not to. He says he loved Milwaukee, which is awesome, and hopefully he talks it up with people in the game, but I think that's about as much help as we can expect from the massive lefty.
He kept the Crew afloat when it was being scuttled from within, and willed the team into the playoffs with an amazing two week stretch in which he started four hundred and seventy-six games. It was astounding.
No hard feelings here my man, take the money. You certainly earned it.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Braun: .301/.364/.620 44 HR 134 RC
Holy crap (That is an MVP year)
Sadly, it's not all good news. James predicts Cameron will decline precipitously:
Cameron: .237/.325/.434 24 HR 77 RC
Check out the rest of his predictions. The fun starts now!
He figures Weeks to play a bit better, Hardy to be a tad worse and Hart to stay strong throughout the year.
I just returned from the season ticket holder luncheon with Dave Niehaus and Jack Zduriencik... ...The most interesting thing he had to say all afternoon was in response to the question about how he planned to incorporate sabermetrics and modern analytical methods into the Mariner organization. He said that he is forming the Mariners “Department of Baseball Research,” and he plans to staff it with sabermetricians. That department would be responsible for making sure that decision making at every level of the organization, including decisions made in the dugout, were based on all the available information, including all the statistical information. Jack got one of the biggest ovations he got all day for this answer.
Do the Brewers have anything like this? I'm assuming they don't.
The Spurs were playing without Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, but it's these games that the Bucks have to take this year. So far they have been. For the most part, they've lost reasonably close games to better teams, and beaten the weaker teams. That's about all you could ask for. The Bucks are still without Michael Redd, but I'm not sure it's hurting them that much. Last night's starting five included Charlie Bell and Luc Richard Mbah ah Moute, along with regular starters Bogut, Ridnour, and Jefferson. Sessions added 24 minutes of the bench and Charlie V and Joe Alexander each added 10 minutes or so. Everyone scored. Everyone contributed. They're playing with a fairly balanced team right now. They could use a star, but I'm pretty sure Michael Redd isn't the guy.
In Brewers news, The CC Sabathia sweepstakes begins tomorrow, when other teams are allowed to throw money at him. I imagine we'll know if CC will remain a Brewer within a week. On a related note, Tom H. is reporting that Doug Melvin & Co. have not closed the door on Ben Sheets. If Sabathia leaved, the Brewers may make an effort to Sheets. Despite his baggage, I'd love to see him around another couple years. Jeff Passan at Yahoo sports is ranking free agents and has Sabathia at #1 and Sheets at #8. The other Brewers on the list include #40 Brian Shouse, #48 Ray Durham, #90 Gabe Kapler, # 91 Russell Branyan, #105 Guillermo Mota, #107 Mike Lamb, #109 Craig Counsell and #113 Eric Gagne.
Who's the better QB? Paul's post from Sunday has turned into an interesting Favre vs. Rodgers debate. Commenter Horrace makes a good case for Favre. I'm still not convinced. I think the Packers' play calling was way better the first 9 games of last season than it has been this year. What do you think?
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
So hog the ball, Ridnour!!
When one team wins, another loses. If the Celtics win the championship, the Lakers cannot. Sports at the team level, within the context of a single season, is more or less a zero-sum game. But ranking the quality and fame of players is more multi-dimensional and thus it is more positive-sum. Maybe the advent of LeBron James diminishes the luster of Tim Duncan (or maybe it doesn't), but the total amount of fame produced still goes up because of LeBron and his efforts.
Players who maximize team wins are investing more resources into the zero-sum game. (In fact players in small markets with few fans are especially destructive of human welfare and it is those players who should be most encouraged to become ball hogs.) Players who pursue individual glory -- even if at the expense of the team -- are investing more resources into the positive-sum game and thus they are doing more to benefit society.
So why is it again that we glorify the team players?
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
On Sunday afternoon, Adrian Peterson scored the go-ahead touchdown against the Green Bay Packer,s and removed his helmet in celebration, and...nothing. Instead of kicking off from the 15-yard line, the Vikings kicked off from the normal 30-yard line. If only Mason Crosby had been a bit closer.
The Packers played poorly on Sunday, but the refs screwed them over every bit as badly as they screwed themselves.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
What. The. Fuck.
Chillar is our best cover linebacker. He excels at taking away tight ends and running backs. Not having Chillar active against a team that throws like 90% of its passes to tight ends and running backs is just managerial malpractice. A.J. Hawk is also a natural middle linebacker, so when Barnett went down a Poppinga-Hawk-Chillar line would have worked fine. Instead some guy I've never heard of and can't be bothered to look up was out there getting smoked by Chester Taylor.
If Chillar plays the Packers probably win.
They also lost even earlier when they cut Jon Ryan.
Read this article at Pro Football Talk.
Apparently the league is saying that the ref meant to call it intentional grounding, which would be a safety, but while this play was unconventional, it was not intentional grounding. I don't think you can say that no receiver had a realistic chance of catching the ball (there was a receiver in the area) and I also don't think that an "imminent loss of yardage was caused by pressure from the defense. Rodgers fell down of his own accord, which is why his pass was poor. It is conceivable that he could have gotten back up before he was touched.
The Packers played like garbage, but that garbage call didn't help matters. The league should send an apology letter.
1. Stop Adrian Peterson
I don't mean this in the generic TV analyst context, where it is intimated that their is some extra power that players can tap into (like Hulk Hogan just when you thought he might lose) to stop the other team's star. What I do mean is that the Packers have to be able to devote and extra defender to the run, and just like last week, the Packers are well-suited to this task with their cover corners.
2. The other key is to shut down the emerging Shiancoe, who isn't actually that good, but is much better than everyone thought. Here, the onus is on the linebackers. (By the way, speaking of linebackers, is anyone else perplexed as to why Brandon Chillar (who I'm a fan of) is taking snaps away from AJ Hawk (who I'm also a fan of) and not Brady Poppinga (who I consider to be "just OK")? Am I missing something with Hawk? He still seems to have good burst and provides good pursuit, at least in my opinion.)
3. Offensively, the key is to not screw up. If the Viking defense can score points, they are difficult to beat. The standard conservative Packer game plan is probably, one again, well suited for this matchup. The other key is to keep Aaron Rodgers' legs away from Jared Allen, who should have been suspended for two low hits on Matt Schaub last week.
Now it's time for me to head over to Will's to get a good seat. Enjoy the game. Go Pack!
Saturday, November 8, 2008
I can't believe that Macha really had no ideas of his own to bring to the table? To top it off, he was the only interview? What the hell? (By the way, if the big three sports leagues and the NCAA are going to mandate minority interviews, I think they should mandate interviews with whitey as well).
I really like Castro. As a bullpen coach. Dude had already signed with the team. Melvin said he and Macha had lengthy discussions about bringing someone on, I'd imagine they went as follows:
Melvin: Kenny, any ideas on who you'd like to see coach up the staff? Castro, he's a damn good fella'.
Macha: Well, I was thinking of maybe bringing in Stevey Sparks. He was damn good for me in 2003 and--
Melvin: Zip it
Macha: Huh,um...what? Well then how bout Rick Peterso---
Melvin: ziiiiip it.
Melvin: Zip it good
Melvin: Castro it is!
Macha: This feels familiar.....
Friday, November 7, 2008
1 Roethlisberger, Ben $ 27,701,920 Pittsburgh Steelers
2 Allen, Jared $ 21,119,256 Minnesota Vikings
3 Fitzgerald, Larry $ 17,103,480 Arizona Cardinals
4 Russell, JaMarcus $ 16,872,400 Oakland Raiders
5 Turner, Michael $ 16,003,840 Atlanta Falcons
6 Snee, Chris $ 14,890,000 N.Y. Giants Giants
7 Samuel, Asante $ 14,145,000 Philadelphia Eagles
8 Moss, Randy $ 14,006,720 New England Patriots
9 Adams, Flozell $ 14,005,760 Dallas Cowboys
10 Kelly, Tommy $ 13,978,480 Oakland Raiders
11 Owens, Terrell $ 13,731,560 Dallas Cowboys
12 Berrian, Bernard $ 13,705,000 Minnesota Vikings
13 Roos, Michael $ 13,505,520 Tennessee Titans
14 Faine, Jeff $ 13,105,760 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
15 Smith, Will $ 12,950,000 New Orleans Saints
16 Romo, Tony $ 12,886,600 Dallas Cowboys
17 Wharton, Travelle $ 12,850,000 Carolina Panthers
18 Odom, Antwan $ 12,800,000 Cincinnati Bengals
19 Newman, Terence $ 12,611,240 Dallas Cowboys
20 Barber, Marion $ 12,522,400 Dallas Cowboys
21 Smith, Justin (DE) $ 12,250,000 San Francisco 49ers
22 Walker, Javon $ 12,000,960 Oakland Raiders
23 Favre, Brett $ 12,000,000 N.Y. Jets Jets
24 Jackson, Steven $ 12,000,000 St. Louis Rams
25 Pace, Calvin $ 12,000,000 N.Y. Jets Jets
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Nate Silver designed the Baseball Prospectus computer program PECOTA. PECOTA has pulled off some nifty feats in its day.
This year, Nate turned his talents towards polling, and election predictions at his site FiveThirtyEight.com, and as you might expect, he proved to be superb once again:
Shortly before Tuesday's vote, Chief Numba-Cruncher posted his final prediction for the 2008 Presidential Election: Barack Obama would win the election with 52.3% of the popular vote, while John McCain would collect 46.2%. The final vote tally as of this morning? Obama 52.4%. McCain 46.2%. One-hundred-and-twenty million votes were cast and the dude was off by one-tenth of one percent. (He also called 49 of the 50 stats correctly.) Holy. Crap.
I've been walking around for the last month or so telling people that Obama was a lock. I did this because of FiveThirtyEight. The first time that I set eyes on the site, I wondered why no one had done this before. I don't mean to denigrate Silver or his work with that statement. Works of genius often seem obvious after the fact, and I would call FiveThirtyEight a genuine work of genius.
So what did Nate do? I might get this a bit wrong, as these are just my observations and I don't have any special insight into PECOTA or FiveThirtyEight, (especially as PECOTA is largely proprietary), but I think I can boil it down.
PECOTA uses comparables, and what I would describe as a Bayesian algorithm to predict career paths for players. In short, you take a bunch of similar guys, you decide how similar they are (probabilistically speaking), and then you dump all of those probabilities into a big computer and run simulations, Monte Carlo style.
Elections are perfect for this type of analysis, because other institutions will provide those probabilities for you, and the value of wins is fixed by the electoral college. Nate did not just take poll numbers, of course. Most poll numbers are terrible. He aggregated (Wisdom of Crowds style) and then corrected for bias. This is where it gets interesting, and why Obama was much more of a sure thing than most pundits acknowledged.
Two candidates can be fairly close in the popular vote while remaining far apart in the electoral count. The media tends to focus on the popular vote, but the electoral count is really all that matters. Most states are not swing states and can be counted upon, with near certainty, to go Republican or Democrat almost every time. This situation leaves certain paths available to the candidates for victory. If you apply the probabilities you've created by aggregating polling data to the "swing state pathways" necessary for each candidate to win, you can determine how likely the candidate is to win.
Let's say, for example, that McCain had 30 (to choose a round number) paths to victory available, but that 20 of them required him to win Pennsylvania. If Obama has a 55% chance of winning Pennsylvania, that doesn't just add some votes to Obama's popular total or 21 votes to his electoral vote total. What it does is significantly reduce the number of ways that John McCain could win. McCain needed so much to go right for him that it was a near impossibility. FiveThirtyEight had Obama winning in over 95% of scenarios for most of the last month because there just were not many paths available for McCain. Even if he would have picked up Pennsylvania (which was always unlikely) he STILL would have needed a bunch of other states to break his way. Obama simply had more outs. While most pundits were reciting poll numbers of 52-48, or something like that, making the race sound reasonably close, Nate had it (for all intents and purposes) 95-5, which is more in tune with the electoral vote blowout that ensued.
Anyway, Silver is an excellent prognosticator, and all of his new-found recognition is well deserved and well earned. Moreover, this is an excellent advertisement for BP and PECOTA for next year, which is an absolute necessity for any real baseball fan.
For more on Bayes theorem, you could read this, or the prologue to The Wisdom of Crowds (the part about The Scorpion), or you could understand the Mont Hall Problem. Then read Anathem.
Richard Jefferson took over for Redd as the team's main scorer with 32, 14 of which came in the first quarter. The Bucks had both of their point guards, Sessions and Ridnour, on the floor at the same time for significant portions of the game and they added 22 points/8 assists, and 20 points/11 assists respectively. Luc Mbah a Moute continues to impress and seems to have become a scoring threat on top of his already impressive defense and energy. That brings the Bucks to 3-2 and tied with Cleveland for second in the Central behind the undefeated Pistons.
The Brewers are starting to round out their coaching staff. Brad Fischer was named Third Base Coach. Fischer worked under new Manager Ken Macha when he was in Oakland. With Sveum as Hitting Coach and Bill Castro and Ed Sedar staying on as Bullpen Coach and First Base Coach, that leaves the Crew with vacancies at Bench Coach and Pitching Coach--although Castro may be moved to Pitching Coach.
There's more news in the Sabathia sweepstakes. Tom H. is reporting that the Yankees will "go hard" after Sabathia and offer something more than the $137.5 million over 6 years that Santanna got from the Mets. Duh. This guy I know tells me that Sabathia will not play in New York under any circumstances. Let's hope that's true. The Yankees are also reportedly going after Teixeira, who edged out CC in Elias Ranking 98.890 to 98.110. I think that means that if the Yankees get both, we don't get their first round pick. Is that true?
That's all I got for today. The Hair of the Dog was brought to you by Smithwick's, which they sell at the Bradley Center for the low low price of $8 for a 20 oz cup.
"The Yankees have
inquired about the availability of Mike Cameron and the Brewers are
weighing whether to deal the center fielder.
Brewers officialsEarlier this week the Brewers picked up the $10
have been asking around about Melky Cabrera, trying to determine why he
struggled in 2008. The Yankees are willing to deal Cabrera and pitching
to land Cameron.
million 2009 option on Cameron. Nevertheless, Milwaukee believes its
lineup is too right-handed plus it needs pitching. Cabrera's numbers as
a lefty were not great (.267 with a .361 slugging percentage), but were
far better than his stats as a righty.
Melky Cabrera 2008: .249/.301/.341 OPS+ 68Wow. But hey, he only struck out 58 times, so he is a massive upgrade over Cameron.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
The Graduate: Manny Parra | Born: October 1982 | Left-Handed Pitcher Manny Parra finally overcame a plethora of injuries to have an impact at the Major League level…
The Riser: Jonathan Lucroy | Born: June 1986 | Catcher
Nabbed in the third round of the 2007 draft, Jonathan Lucroy has hit, hit and then hit some more. His two-year pro line is .315/.379/.492 with 24 homers and 116 RBI in 709 at-bats. In 2008, split between two A-ball levels, he posted rates of 10.9 BB% and 17.7 K%. Lucroy also showed improved power this season and slugged 20 homers with an ISO of .193. He is a solid leader behind the plate but his defence is lacking at times. That said, he threw out 56 of 125 runners attempting to steal (45%).
The Tumbler: Brent Brewer | Born: December 1987 | Shortstop The aptly-named Brent Brewer, who was drafted out of high school in the second round of 2006, has been slow to develop for Milwaukee. His biggest flaw has been a lack of contact.
The ‘08 Draft Pick: Jake Odorizzi | Born: January 1987 | Right-Handed Pitcher
The athletic Jake Odorizzi was nabbed in the supplemental first round and swayed to forgo a scholarship to the University of Louisville, thanks in part to a seven-figure contract. In a small sample size, Odorizzi had a nice pro debut in Rookie Ball with 18 hits allowed in 20.2 innings. He also posted rates of 3.92 BB/9 and 8.27 K/9. He is fairly polished for a prep player, so he could begin 2009 in A-ball.
The ‘09 Sleeper: Efrain Nieves | Born: November 1989 | Left-Handed Pitcher
Yes, his ERA was a little high and he allowed 78 hits in 76 innings, but Efrain Nieves offers a lot of promise. A 2007 seventh round pick out of Puerto Rico, Nieves has improved in each of his first two pro seasons and showed exceptional control for a young player in 2008 with a walk rate of 1.18 in Rookie Ball. His strikeout rate was solid at 7.78K/9 and the slim Nieves (6′0”, 170 pounds) is working to add upper body strength, which should help add a tick or two to his 90 mph fastball.
It's nice to see Nieves still making peoples radar. He has a pretty solid upside and I'd love to see him crack through in 2009 and really make people notice him. Brent Brewer was always teh product of luck and short stop isn't really a worry for this club.
Cornerback DeAngelo Hall and wide receiver Javon Walker are targets for a purge by the Oakland Raiders, according to published reports.
The players' names came up amid reports Raiders owner Al Davis and team brass as weighing drastic moves to shake the team out of its funk. Other high-profile players were discussed, the Contra Costa Times reports in a story by Sporting News correspondent Steve Cockran.
Walker, at 30 six years older than Hall, has been a bust, with 13 receptions for 169 yards and one touchdown in eight games.
Walker is due $12 million combined in base salary and signing bonus.
In 3 seasons with the Packers (he only played 1 game in the 4th year) Walker had 22 touchdowns and a hissy fit. Since leaving the Packers, Javon has caught 9 touchdowns in three seasons.
While you are a miserable failure, the Packers receiving corp is thriving.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Like defense-adjusted statistics in baseball, tempo-free statistics in basketball try to eliminate some of the variables in basketball statistics in order to more accurately compare the performance of players and teams.
The fundamental adjustment of tempo-free stats is that the statistics are reported on a basis of per 100 possessions, rather than per game or per minute. This provides an analysis of how efficient a player or team is in either scoring or defending on each possession. Some games will be played at a higher tempo, thus resulting in a greater number of possessions while other games have a slower pace, resulting in fewer possessions. Tempo-free stats try to adjust for these differences.
The guys over at Cracked Sidewalks have posted a pretty good primer here and here on tempo-free stats for basketball analysis.
For NBA analysis, www.82games.com and www.basketballprospectus.com provide tempo-free statistics and analysis.
Monday, November 3, 2008
The Brewers have decided to exercise the $10 million option in Cameron's contract for next season. Today was the deadline for exercising the option or paying a $750,000 buyout.
Cameron, who will be 36 in January, signed as a free agent last winter, for a bonus of $1.25 million and a $5 million salary in '08, plus the option for '09. His salary was prorated last season because he sat out the first 25 days while on suspension for using a banned stimulant the previous season.
Cameron played in 120 games for the Brewers last season, batting .243 with 25 home runs and 70 RBI. He struck out a team-high 142 times in 444 at-bats, with a .331 on-base percentage and .477 slugging percentage.
Cameron lived up to his Gold Glove reputation in center, committing just one error. He also swiped 17 bases in 22 attempts.
There's lots of sort-of-big Brewers news since the last time I posted. Since it became official that Macha was the new Manager, the Brewers have been working to complete their coaching staff. Dale Sveum has swallowed his pride and will come back as hitting coach. So if you're keeping score at home, that means Sveum's coaching career as a Brewers has gone bench coach -> third base coach -> bench coach -> manager -> hitting coach. Right?
Interestingly, Mike Maddux will not return. From the Dallas Morning News:
The Rangers will name Mike Maddux pitching coach perhaps as early as Monday, a source with knowledge of the process said Sunday night.
GM Jon Daniels confirmed only that the Rangers had been in touch with Maddux this weekend. He did not confirm or deny the report. The Rangers were able to contact Maddux about the job officially on Saturday, a day after his contract with Milwaukee expired. Maddux, 47, has been the Brewers pitching coach the last six seasons. Milwaukee had extended him an offer to remain as new manager Ken Macha's pitching coach, but Maddux refrained from signing anything until talking to the Rangers.
I can't say that I'm too upset about this. I think it's hard for a fan to know how good of a job a pitching coach or a hitting coach is doing, or how much say they have in bullpen moves and that sort of thing. But Maddux never seemed to do much in that department, and there's a pretty long list of guys that pitched poorly under Maddux and then went on to be solid somewhere else. Maybe that's true of any coach, but I'm interested to see who they hire to replace him, and how the staff looks next season as a result.
Regarding players: the Brewers declined Craig Counsel's option, but it's probably still possible he'll be on the crew next year at a lower salary. We'll see. The Brewers have until today to decide on Mike Cameron's option. I think they shoud take it. The biggest news it that the Brewers have indeed offered CC Sabathia 4 years for $100 Million. We probably won't know much about this for a while. The Brewers have until the 13th to negotiate with Sabathia before other teams can start talking to him. C'mon CC. You know you love Milwaukee.
The Packers lost to the Titans in a very close, field goal-infested, overtime, road game. It sucks to lose those. That brings the pack to 4-4 at the half way point of the season. The Bears managed to eek out a win against the Lions under the strong arm of.... Rex Grossman? to bring them to 5-3 and in sole possession of the division.
The Packers looked solid against the best team in the NFL. The offense can definitely roll, but is still subject to an occasional miscue. That, and the inability to put the ball in the end zone made it a difficult game to win. The Defense kept the game in reach, but couldn't come up with a stop in OT.
The Bucks still have a .500 record after losing their home opener to Toronto and then beating the Knickerbockers in New York or New Jersey or where ever they play. I was at the home opener, and they looked a LOT more like an NBA team then they had during the preseason. The defense looked good for the most part and they all appeared to be trying--even Charlie Villanueva. That seemed like enough to get the crowd into it. In the end, they lost a close one to a better team, but it wasn't a hard loss to swallow. Ramon Sessions is a better point guard than Luke Ridnour. I imagine he'll be the official starter in the near future, regardless of Luke's back spasms. Dan Gadzuric is terrible. The difference between the Bucks when Bogut is on the court and the Bucks when Bogut is not on the court is huge. We could really use a more functional back-up center.
I think Bret Bielema's tenure as the Badgers' coach will be coming to an end in the very near future. He basically gave Michigan State one of the Badgers' time-outs in a situation in which they really needed it. It wasn't the only factor in the Badgers' 1-point loss, but it was a big one.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
The Titan defense is brutally tough, having allowed a league low 87 points this year (a full 23 fewer points than second place Pitt and Baltimore). It is not a friendly matchup for a QB with a lightly separated shoulder.
Still the undefeated Titans are not without their warts. They run the ball like nobody's business, and get adequate passing from ye olde Kerry Collins and his hitch-tastic delivery. It is the adequate passing where they can be hurt.
Here Bob Sanders' defense takes some heat once in a while, but this is the type of game where it may allow the Pack to steal a win. The man-to-man ability of the Backer corners allows the Packers to stack the line and stop the run better than some other teams. If you need to play zone or to help a guy out, you're vulnerable to the Titans, but the Titan receivers can be accurately described as "woeful" and Charles Woodson, and either Al Harris or up-and-coming Tramon Williams should be able to hold their own in the passing game.
If the Packers can stack up against the run without giving up to much to Collins, the Titans can be had.
On the offensive side of the ball, Aaron Rodgers just needs to keep doing what he has been doing. He needs to play smart, take what he's given, and don't screw up.
I'd still pick the Titans as a gambling man, but the Pack presents a tough matchup for a somewhat unique team like Tennessee.
If The Packers Lose...
Look forward to some rube-tastic commentary about how the Bears are up on the Packers and the Packer season is now over if the Pack does go down. The Bears, of course, play the league's worst team, the Detroit Lions, while the Pack plays the NFL's best team, but don't expect anyone intelligent to notice that little fact. And the Bears take on the Titans next week, so it will all even out.
Enjoy the game. Go Pack!