Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Look, I suppose there is some outside shot that Tim Tebow will succeed in the NFL. Maybe his big frame will let him hang in the pocket like Roethlisberger and allow his receivers extra time to get open (and extra time for his terribly slow delivery). Maybe he continues to be a weapon running the ball. It could happen.
But it probably won’t.
And anyone who thinks it will based on a few Brandon Lloyd circus catches against one of the worst pass defenses in the league is just delusional. Tebow completed just over half his passes for a lot of yards based on a few bombs that clicked. He had 1 TD and 1 pick, and added a rushing TD (although he only averaged 2.7 ypc). This was not some stellar performance, and pretending it was is just silly. Matt Cassel (201, 3 TDs, 0 picks) and David Garrard (342, 2 TDs, 0 picks) tore this team up. Mark Sanchez, who is apparently quite bad at football, looked like John Elway against Houston (315, 3TDs, 1 Pick). Donovan McNabb threw for 426 yards and a TD against them (no picks). Kerry Collins and Bruce Gradkowski put up games that were at least the equal of Tebow.
On Sunday, Tebow completed 55% of his passes. Only one other QB has completed as low a percentage as Tebow against the Texans this year: Rusty Smith. The Texans have allowed a QB to complete at least 65% of his passes on 8 occasions this year, and have allowed a QB to complete 70% of his passes 5 times. Tebow threw 1 pick and 1 TD. The only other QBs to not have a positive TD/Int ratio against the Texans are Bruce Gradkowski and Rusty Smith. The only other QBs to not throw at least 2 TD passes against the Texans are McNabb (who threw for 426 yards and no picks) and Rusty Smith.
It is difficult to oversell just how bad the Texans secondary was this year. That is what makes this piece of fanboy nonsense so completely terrible.
At the 2009 World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, I bought and wore a teal and white, Jacksonville Jaguar colors, "Draft Tebow" T-shirt. The shirt had been for sale at a local Walgreen's -- perhaps the first time Walgreen's had been directly complicit in an NCAA violation -- and I wore it at the Georgia-Florida game to gauge fan reaction. (Read that column here.)
At that time Tebow and Florida were the defending national champions and how Tebow projected as an NFL quarterback was the single most-debated issue in the Southeastern Conference. Throw open the phone lines beneath the Mason-Dixon line and you could take calls for hours, everyone had an opinion.
Generally, the Tebow haters, and they were legion, would argue that his football glory was short-lived. That he could never win a football game in the NFL. That he would have to change positions to tight end or fullback. That Tim Tebow was a system quarterback who had no future at the position.
Just to distinguish myself as a "non-hater", I’d like to point something out. Tim Tebow’s college stats, in a vaccuum, absolutely look like they should translate to NFL success. He started a lot of games and he had a very high completion percentage. We’re not talking about a Kyle Boller-esque combine darling here.
The reasons that people are skeptical of Tebow are almost entirely based on scouting.
He has a funky delivery (and not in the good, Philip Rivers way), and he has trouble with the accuracy of certain throws. He was bigger than many college linebackers (but not professional linebackers), and he’s not terribly fast. And people overrate him because of his stupid moralizing. OK, so maybe I’m a bit of a hater.
Anyway, Tebow sort of reminds me of Ron Dayne. I think most people knew that Dayne wouldn’t succeed as a pro. He was just too slow, and his size advantage would only work in college. He had physical gifts, they just stopped working when the competition got better. Anyway…
I always argued otherwise, thinking back to the lasers I'd seen a freshman Tebow throwing in warm-ups at the Swamp in 2006. I had faith in Tebow's pro potential, argued that any team that didn't consider drafting him was foolish. And after I saw Tebow dismantle the Sugar Bowl record books en route to a 31-for-35 passing performance for 482 yards in a romp over Cincinnati. He also tossed in 51 yards rushing.
How could anyone have any doubts?
Cincinnati? Dude, have you seen the Big East lately? That Cinci team allowed Illinois to score 39 points. Pitt scored 44 on them. An unranked UConn team scored 45 on them. I would hope that Tim Tebow would at least put up better numbers than Juice Williams.
But Tebow's domination of the Sugar Bowl record book was in the future on that October day at the Cocktail Party. On that day Florida fans saw the Draft Tebow shirt and did the Gator chomp. They'd seen the Tebow, had faith in his ability to overcome any challenge.
These were in the ancient days before Tebow's statue was complete in Gainesville and before there was a plaque outside the wall featuring the speech Tebow gave after the loss to Ole Miss. "The Promise." But Georgia fans were not as enamored of Tebow. "He's a f---- fullback," screamed one fan. "He's a tight end," screamed another. "Tebow's a f---- p--y," catcalled an elegant female Bulldog.
Love him or hate him, already, Tebow was legend.
None of this has anything to do with Tebow’s ability to play in the pros. We know about all of this garbage. Announcers talked about nothing else during every Florida broadcast. The auditory fellatio directed at Tebow by announcers was also legend.
The question remained: would Tebow's game translate at the next level? Could he become a winning quarterback in the NFL? His jerseys flew off the shelf, becoming the best-selling jersey in the NFL. But Tebow stayed on the sideline. Then the head coach who'd risked his coaching future on drafting him, Josh McDaniels, was fired. At long last, Tebow took the field.
I would just like to point out that Kyle Orton actually played pretty well, especially early. And it’s quite possible that had the Broncos stayed healthy, and not been run by morons, or had some kind of defense, that Orton could very well have kept it up. Later, we will be talking about "300 yard games" for no good reason. Just keep in mind that Orton threw for over 300 yards in 4 of the Broncos first 5 games this year.
He lost his first game as a starter, against the Oakland Raiders,
8/16 for 138 yards and 1 TD. Half of those went to Brandon Lloyd.
but on Sunday Tebow took the field as a starter for a second time. And Tim Tebow vanquished the doubters who claimed he'd never be a winning quarterback at the NFL level.
By completing just over 50% of his passes against the worst secondary in the NFL. Well, I’m silenced. Oh, wait, no I’m not, because I watch NFL games and know about the Texans and follow Steph Stradley on Twitter.
Throwing for 308 yards against the Houston Texas, Tebow rallied his Denver Broncos team from a 17-0, second-half deficit and snatched a victory many never believed would come, a 24-23 triumph.
Really? Houston is basically famous for blowing second-half leads at this point. They’ve blown some truly amazing leads. They lost on a pick-6 in OT 2 weeks before this. 3 weeks ago they blew a big lead against the Eagles. In week 11 they let the Jets go all the way down the field with no timeouts and under a minute to go in only 2 plays to blow what should have been a sure victory.
The Texans do this all the time.
It wasn't just that Tebow won, it's the fact that his game clearly translates to the next level.
Did he improve his accuracy? Speed up his delivery?
Tebow's emotional embrace of the gridiron, his infectious enthusiasm, it's all there, working on an NFL sideline just like it worked in college. Just the way that his critics long contended it wouldn't. The anti-Tebow contingent was flat out wrong, but they won't admit it yet.
Oh. So…he’s a cheerleader. I’m glad Brandon Lloyd started playing better after Tebow started inspiring him. Oh, wait, he was awesome even when the kind of mopey-looking Neckbeard was QB. So, who is being enthused by Tebow exactly?
Already, the Tebow haters are retrenching their criticisms now that he is a winning quarterback in the NFL.
Because he won a game? Like, 1 game? So John Skelton is also a “Winning Quarterback”?
Tebow, in throwing for 300 yards in just his second start as a rookie, has managed a feat that neither Peyton nor Eli Manning could accomplish in their rookie seasons.
Eli Manning, nice QB, not that great. Peyton Manning was drafted #1 overall. When you are drafted #1 overall the team that drafts you is terrible as a rule (barring a trade, I suppose). Also, the Texans secondary doesn’t come around very often, and as previously pointed out, everyone has torched them. Also, raw yardage is a stupid measure.
There must be a reason why they were wrong. The Tebow haters are circling, nervous, still unwilling to give up the hateful fight. They point to the Houston Texans' pass defense, currently ranked 32nd in the league.
Uhm..yes. Though I’m not sure last really captures their terribleness completely. I mean, you can’t be worse than 32nd. You can’t fall off the floor, as they say.
Want to read a whole bunch of straw man arguments all in a row?
The same people who said that Tebow would never win an NFL game,
Basically, no one said this. Tons of awful QBs have “won” NFL games.
wring their hands and argue that this is too small of a sample size to prove anything.
Yes, one game is too small of a sample size to prove anything. That is correct. But they will not “wring their hands” as they are correct.
And even if it does prove anything, the Texans are awful. So what, you know, if the Broncos are also awful. That's why the Texans were favored to win this game.
No , no, no. The Texans are not awful. The Texans’ offense is very good. This is why the Texans are in almost every game they play. Their defense, however, is so bad that even Tim Tebow looked OK against it.
Of course, those Tebow haters have already been proven wrong so now they have to move their targets, have to argue that Tebow can't do it again.
Now I'm not really not sure if this is parody or not. I’m not that acquainted with Clay Travis's writing, but this sounds so meatball-y that it is difficult to believe it was published. Actually, I take that back. This is the kind of tripe I might expect from an old-timey columnist, so I guess my main surprise is that an online magazine published this. It might be Tebow-baiting.
When he does, they'll argue that he can't beat a team with a winning record, that he can't beat a 3-4 defense, that he can't win a playoff game, that he can't win a Super Bowl. You get the picture. Tebow haters gonna hate. And keep shifting the argument every time Tebow proves them wrong. Tebow haters will begin every sentence with, "Yeah, but..."
You did see his game against the Raiders last week, right? Where he completed 8 passes? And it was only the Raiders. I mean, we’re dealing with a small sample size here to start, the least you could do is not ignore half of the sample size.
But every time they adjust their argument Tebow moves further down the field, powering through his haters like they stood between him and the goal line. Already the college debate that lasted for three years -- could Tebow win in the NFL?-- has shifted to, how many games can Tebow win in the NFL? The answer? A ton. Make no mistake about it, quarterbacks passing for 300 yards in their rookie season are rare, no matter who the NFL competition is.
This is not true, and it is not true that 300 yard games against the Texans are rare. And “300 yards” is one of those annoying, arbitrary round number bench marks. Sticking to the 300 yard thing ignores that fact that Tebow wasn’t very accurate in this game, and was actually picked off by a defense that only had 8 non-Rusty interceptions all season.
In fact, here's a list of Super Bowl winning NFL quarterbacks who didn't manage that feat in their first year: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Drew Brees and Brett Favre.
First, I hate the inclusion of Eli Manning in this list. Second, Drew Bledsoe did it. So did Marc Bulger (453). And Kevin Kolb (391). And Peyton Manning (302), and Peyton Manning (309), and Peyton Manning (357), and Peyton Manning (335). Wait. Hold on. Didn’t he just claim that Peyton had never done this? Let’s rewind…
Make no mistake about it, quarterbacks passing for 300 yards in their rookie season are rare, no matter who the NFL competition is.
In fact, here's a list of Super Bowl winning NFL quarterbacks who didn't manage that feat in their first year: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Drew Brees and Brett Favre.
Not only did Peyton Manning do this, he is the all-time rookie leader in 300 yard passing games. Good lord. It’s one thing to make a stupid argument. It’s another thing entirely to be so lazy in researching your article that you get a counting stat about Peyton Manning not only wrong, but really really wrong. Opposite wrong. This article must be satire.
Here's a list of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks from the past 20 years who threw for 300 or more yards in their second career start.
That would be zero.
For the record, Peyton did it in his first career start. Also, it doesn’t really matter.
Not a one.
I mean, really? By the way, while I’ve been writing this I’ve been researching how rare 300 yard games by rookie QBs actually are. In 2002 it happened 6 times, 3 by Bulger, and 1 each by Joey Harrington, Patrick Ramsey, and Chad Hutchinson. Truly the elite of the QB world. By the way, Patrick Ramsey did it in his second career game. Did you do any research at all for this article?
And, oh by the way, Bronco fans, need a guy who also threw for 300 yards in the second-to-last game of his rookie season? Guy by the name of John Elway. Pretty good company, right?
John Elway – 15 year career, 5 Super Bowl appearances, 2 Wins, #1 overall pick, 9-time pro-bowler, multiple passing record holder, former MVP, great athlete, huge arm, quick release, extremely accurate.
Tim Tebow – controversial 1st-round pick, slow, ugly delivery, questions about his ability to make several NFL throws, has only played two games and completed just over 50% of his passes. Also, circumcises kids in the offseason.
Mine eyes have seen the Tebow and as much as it drives his haters crazy, you ain't seen nothing yet. But what you have seen is something the haters said you'd never see, Tebow with a win as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
No one said that. This column is nothing but a fanboy collection of straw men and non-facts. If it’s parody it commits the sin of not being funny, but I sure hope it’s parody, because if it’s not, it’s Bleacher Report bad.
This author is from Tennessee, which led me to believe this was satire as he probably isn't a big Florida fan and annoyed by Tebow hagiography, and he got stats about Peyton Manning just wrong, which a Tennessean probably shouldn't do. But then we have this on Twitter:
Hundreds of emailers told me I was a fool for believing in Tebow's NFL future for the past three years. Early validation for Tebow fans.
I'm really not sure, but I think it's terrible either way.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
4-1-NE 1 (13:52) 2-M.Crosby 19 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-61-B.Goode, Holder-8-T.Masthay.
I hate 19 yard FGs. Unless you are trailing by 2 or less and time is running out, they're always a bad idea, but this was a particularly bad decision. I'll never understand why coaches do not think in terms of possessions. Being up by 7 is good. Being up by 9 or more is great. When your opponent needs two offensive possession to beat you instead of one, you are far more likely to win the game.
Being up by 10 on the Pats is simply far more valuable than being up by 6, and it was well worth the risk. Moreover, even if the Packers were stopped the Pats likely could not have gone the length of the field starting from the 1.
That was a terrible decision, and cost them the game as much as anything.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
After thinking it over, screw Odorizzi. Love the deal. Love it.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
2. Blaming Mark Sanchez’s struggles on bad weather. (Check)
3. Going on ad nauseum about the Jets. (Check)
4. Claiming that “After Aaron Rodgers went out last week the offense was anemic”. (Check, and while technically true, ignored the fact that it was just as bad before he went out.)
5. Claimed that a team needs to “find its identity” to be good. I don’t know what that means. (Check)
6. Showtunes, sung by the Mikes. (Check)
7. Citing Darius Rucker's approval of said showtunes. (Check)
8. Misstatement of NFC North playoff scenario. (Check – Claim that a Packers loss eliminates them from contention. This is only true if the Bears win as well.)
9. Advertisements now integrated into the show, accompanied by annoying background drum machine. (Check)
10. Mark Schlereth – “I don’t have much use for statistics, but the one I like to look at is rush attempts”. (Check. And Good Lord.)
I think they made it worse. I did not think it was possible. And this didn’t even feature Ditka.
Monday, December 13, 2010
As Moe the bartender once said, that's the worst name I ever heard.
First and foremost, you absolutely want the Vikings to beat the Giants tonight. Doing so would create a 3-way tie for the last wild card spot between GB, TB, and the Giants. Of those teams, the Packers have the worst Conference record but I doubt that will end up mattering for a few reasons:
1. The Packers still play against the Giants, so that tiebreaker will end up being head to head.
2. To make the playoffs I figure the Packers can at maximum lose one more game (and that’s a stretch) and that game would have to be an out of division game to the Patriots.
3. Every remaining Bucs game is against the NFC. The Bucs are 6-3 and the Packers are 6-4. I believe the Pack will have to win all of their remaining conference games to make the playoffs (8-4) and any Bucs loss will put them in a tie for that tiebreaker. If the Bucs can win out, they will win the tiebreaker.
The Packers have 2 possible ways to get into the playoffs.
1.Catch the Bears.
2.Win the Wild Card.
1. Catch the Bears
The Bears sit a game up on the Packers with a head-to-head win in their possession. In order to catch the Bears it is extremely likely that the Packers will have to win the head to head matchup, and in the event that they end up in a tie, the Bears will still probably win the tiebreaker. Why? Division record. The Packers currently sit at 3-2 within the division with 1 game left (against the Bears). The Bears are 4-0 with 2 games left (next week at Minnesota if they can fix their stadium in time, and against the Packers). If the Bears beat Minnesota next week they effectively lock up the tiebreaker. This means that to win the division, the Packers will have to win one more game than the Bears, and if the Bears beat Minnesota, that would meant the Packers would have to, at minimum, go 11-5.
In short, if the Bears win at Minnesota next week, and the Packers lose in Foxboro next week (like everyone has for the last 20 consecutive games or so), the Bears will wrap up the division. That is exceedingly likely to happen.
If the Bears lose next week things become much more plausible. If you assume an equally (at least) plausible GB loss to New England, that would put the Bears at 9-5 and the Packers at 8-6 with 2 games to play. In this scenario a Packer win against Chicago would put the teams even in the first 2 tiebreakers moving us to common games. The Packers and Bears have 12 games in common, and each team is currently 7-3 in those games with 2 yet to play. For the Bears, those games are Minnesota and the NYJ. For the Pack it’s New England and the Giants. If you will recall, to even make this scenario plausible we had to assume a Bear loss to Minnesota, and if the Packers somehow did manage to force a tie in this scenario, they probably win with either the common opponents tiebreaker or the Conference Record tiebreaker. Of course beating the Giants is no easy task and that game can also make this whole thing moot.
If the Vikings can somehow pull their game out next week, we’ll reexamine further, but if the Bears win it’s basically over.
2. The Wild Card.
This whole analysis is probably academic for one simple reason. The Packers, a team that just lost to the Detroit Lions and did not look good doing it, have an extremely difficult final three games and they have to win a high percentage of those games, and possibly all of them.
The Saints basically have the 1st Wild Card slot locked up, and should they happen to catch Atlanta, then Atlanta would similarly have it locked up. There are 4 teams in play for the final Wild Card spot; whoever does not win the NFC East (Eagles of Giants), the Bucs, and the Packers. The Giants have yet to play this week @Minnesota/Detroit, and sit ½ game up at 8-4. After the game tonight, they will finish up at home against Philly, and then on the road at GB and @Washington. Green Bay will almost certainly need to win the head-to-head matchup with the Giants to have any chance at the wild card both because they need the win, and probably, the tiebreaker.
Tampa Bay escaped this weekend on a missed extra point by the Redskins. They have a relatively easy schedule at home against Detroit, at home against Seattle, and @ New Orleans. It is exceedingly likely that New Orleans will have their spot locked up in week 17 and give Tampa a healthy dose of Chase Daniels.
One thing the Packers do have going for them is their win over the Eagles. Should the Giants beat Minnesota tonight and Philly next week, they will put the Eagles into the Wild Card mix, where the Packers already own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The Packers appear to have the most difficult road to the playoffs of these four teams. One strange thing: Minnesota will play a prominent role no matter what. They play the Giants tonight, the Bears next week, and the Eagles in week 16. The Packers are in the strange position of hoping for a 3-game Viking winning streak to end the season.
Without doing any math of any kind, I’d put the Packers’ odds of making the playoffs at something around 25%. Probably a bit worse. Still, stranger things have happened.
Monday, December 6, 2010
With Lawrie coming off a very impressive .361 wOBA season as a 20 year old at AA Huntsville, it’s hard to imagine his value at a higher point in the near future. The Brewers had a large roster hole to fill, and due to the concerns about Lawrie’s position, Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin decided to capitalize on Lawrie’s high prospect stock. By most accounts, this deal was fair to both sides. The Brewers filled a need and the Jays dealt from a position of surplus. The Brewers win in the short term, and, if Lawrie develops in accordance to his top prospect status, the Jays should enjoy a solid long term return.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
What’s the worst part about the new Soldier Field? I mean the inside, not the space toilet-y outside.
Well, the single worst thing is...
1. BEAR DOWN!
I have no problem with cheesy theme songs in theory, and all Chicago teams have them. (Go Cubs Go, Here come the Hawks, the Go-Go White Sox thing), but there is a time and a place for these things, and that time and place is not after every Field Goal. Imagine if, at Wrigley Field, the Cubs played Go Cubs Go after every run. That’s what it’s like at Soldier.
NO ONE IS AFRAID OF YOUR T-FORMATION. That’s the worst part of the song other than all of the other parts. I know the Wing-T was standard football back in the day and perhaps the Bears had some fearsome people running the thing, but the formation itself isn’t scary. It’s just weird. Like, if a terrible team would just line up their backfield in the T, all of a sudden the opposing defense would start cowering.
2. The second worst thing is that they try to label the fans as “Phase 4” (offense, defense, and special teams being the other 3 phases). I appreciate that everyone has the 12th man and the Packers have the G-Force thing and you want to be original, but once again, this doesn’t make any sense.
“Hey, Frank, are we on offense or defense?”
“We’re on “Fans”. You know, Phase 4.”
“Oh, in that case I’m going to the bathroom.”
See what I mean? No sense at all.
3. The 3rd worst part is that beer costs 8 bucks.
4. The 4th worst part is that the field itself is perpetually in terrible shape. When you drive from the North side of Chicago to the South side, you commonly take Lakeshore Drive. Once you pass downtown on a nice summer day, you might be shocked to find that the median as well as the sides of the road have absolutely beautiful flower gardens growing on them, courtesy of the city. I will never understand how the middle of a highway is more well-manicured than the multi-million dollar football stadium next to said highway.
5. The 5th worst part is that when there is a timeout, the announcer says “Timeout”, and everyone in the stands yells “Where?”, and then the announcer says “on the field”, and the crowd yells “Oh.” It’s weird.
6. The 6th worst part is the Bear growl. While they do exercise some restraint, unlike the hornblower in Minnesota or the Wildcat noise at Northwestern, it’s still too often for my taste.
7. The 7th worst part is that while the inside is definitely nicer than the outside, it’s still not nearly as nice as most new stadiums including the refurbished Lambeau Field.
Actually, I’m just kidding. The worst part is that you have to watch the Bears play.
First of all, while the Bears are tied with the Packers after their win against Miami’s backups, it’s worth pointing out that the Bears do not in fact hold a head to head tiebreaker over the Packers. People say it, but it’s not true. The reason it’s not true even though the Bears do have a head to head win against the Packers, against teams in your own division you have to beat them twice to gain that tiebreaker. This is obvious. The Bears will not have an opportunity to secure said tiebreaker until the last game of the year, and who knows what the situation will be for that game.
As for why the Bears are frauds:
1. Win v. Detroit, on nonsense Calvin Johnson rule. After the Bears knocked Matthew Stafford from the game. In a game in which the Bears turned the ball over 4 times and actually lost the turnover battle.
2. Win v. Dallas Cowboys, one of the worst teams in the league even when they still had Romo.
3. Win v. Green Bay Packers – In this game, the Packers set their franchise record for penalties, which is strange in retrospect because this Packer team actually hasn’t been penalized that much. It’s also worth pointing out that many of those penalties were both game-changing and bullshit. Jay Cutler and the Bear offense were basically terrible, but they capitalized on a Devin Hester punt return and good field position (penalties) to eek out a win over a much better team. The Bears were outgained by over 100 yards in this game.
4. Win v. Carolina Panthers, one of the 2 or 3 teams worse than the Dallas Cowboys. The Quarterbacks in this game were Todd Collins, Caleb Hanie, Matt Moore, and Jimmy Clausen. The Bear QBs were 8-19 for 51 yards. Against any other opponent this is almost certainly a loss, but a rare big day by Matt Forte bailed them out.
5. Win v. Buffalo, one of the 2 or 3 teams worse than the Dallas Cowboys. Despite being completely inept the Bears won this game on the strength of a missed PAT and a subsequent missed 2-pt conversion to make up for it. That is the margin of victory.
6. Win v. Minnesota. A rare good performance by the Bears, but even this win is suspect as it came against a team in complete turmoil after the Randy Moss fiasco, with no Sidney Rice and without Percy Harvin for an extended period. With no threat in the passing game the Bears were able to bottle up Adrian Peterson, and get a few tipped interceptions. It was the best possible time to play against the Vikings.
7. Win v. Miami. The Dolphins were playing without their first and second string QBs, a severely injured all-pro left tackle, and they lost their best WR and center early in the game. Oh, and since it was a short week their third string QB only had one day to get ready.
So yeah. They’re lucky. They’ll probably make the playoffs, but they’re truly not very good. It happens sometimes.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Only one end zone will be used at Wrigley Field on Saturday for the Illinois-Northwestern game because of safety concerns, Illinois sports information director Kent Brown said Friday.
The east end zone is feet away from the right-field wall, and although there is padding, there was still concerns that injuries could take place. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald had said he would have different game plans for the different end zones to avoid the possibility of injury.
Monday, November 15, 2010
And one last editorial comment on the Indiana game.
The only way the Badgers could have avoided scoring Saturday would have been to kneel down on just about every offensive play from late in the third quarter until the final minute.
To me, that would have been an insult to the Indiana coaches and players.
But what do I know? I'm just a reporter who covered the game and saw the effort of the Indiana defenders sag dramatically as the game progressed.
Bret Bielema is a lot of things. “Kind of a dick” is probably one of them. But so is “cold and calculating.” I will remind you of his abuse of the new kickoff rules against Penn State a few years ago that almost caused Joe Paterno to have a heart attack. I like that the coach of the Badgers cares enough to understand the subtleties of certain rules, and has the fortitude to abuse those rules where they can be abused.
The fact is that the BCS has the Badgers behind several other one-loss teams, and the nonsensical “computer” part isn’t going to give them any help. Their only hope is to move up in the equally nonsensical polls, and the polls care about margin of victory even if they pretend not to. Moreover, the controversial move has garnered the program far more attention this morning than they normally get, and as they say, all publicity is good publicity.
(But really, what’s the difference between 83 and like, 56?)
At 56 you’re just another team. Teams routinely put up 56. Scoring more really helps you a lot. Much of the way we look at Oregon is based on some outlandish scores (72-0 over New Mexico, 60-13 over UCLA, plus a few 53 and 52s). If you have a few of those huge games, suddenly people start viewing you as an offensive juggernaut and the pollsters respond accordingly. Running up the score often makes logical sense.
(Didn’t they take “margin of victory” out of the BCS equation?)
To the contrary, they’ve increased the importance of “margin of victory” over time. Every time the “computers” spit out something that differs significantly from the polls, the evil BCS committee changes the equation to give more weight to the polls, and voters do care about “margin of victory.”
(Don’t you feel bad for those kids at Indiana?)
In my experience, while losing sucks, and getting blown out sucks, at some point while getting blown out you just sort of stop caring. Moreover, this isn’t Austin Peay. Indiana is a Big Ten football program that should have beaten Iowa last week. If they want to stop getting blown out by Wisconsin and the rest of the Big Ten, they should try a little harder to build a program.
(So you think this will be good for the Badgers?)
Absolutely. If nothing else they are now an attractive villain. They’re on the national radar. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Mike and Mike talk about the University of Wisconsin before, but they were all over them this morning. Everyone is going to want to see them get embarrassed by someone else, and maybe they will. Michigan can put up some points and maybe they’ll steamroll the Badgers. Who knows? But if they can keep winning, this will only help them.
(So you don’t think that coaches should “call off the dogs” at some point?)
I actually find the whole idea offensive to some extent. You don’t have any duty to the other team. If you start destroying someone I don’t know why every team doesn’t use that as an opportunity to run their 2nd string and 3rd stringers out there for some real live game work. Golic this morning said that “this wasn’t the time for that.” That’s stupid. There is no other time for that. Let me ask you some questions.
Do you think Wisconsin should have just gotten in the V formation for every play after halftime and then punted?
(Well, no, but you don’t have to keep passing.)
So you want them to just run.
You know, they were running pretty well too. They were averaging 7.2 yards per carry.
(Well, they don’t have to run that hard. They could just run basic plays.)
So you want them to run plays, but you don’t want them to try to score?
To what end?
(Well, they should still play football.)
It sounds to me like you want them to just pretend to play football. Isn’t that more insulting to Indiana? How is that different from just lining up in the V?
It’s a stupid fiction that you should “call off the dogs.” Bret did what was best for his team. He put them in the best position he could. What more can you ask of a coach?
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
Al was never fast. He was a technique guy, which is why he has lasted as long as he has at such a high level, but that's a double-edged sword. When you don't start out fast you also do not have much speed to lose.
Al had also been declining noticeably even before the injury, and that knee injury was absolutely catastrophic. It is extremely unlikely that Al Harris will ever possess the speed to be an effective starting cornerback again.
I always thought he would end up at safety in the Leroy Butler mold. Leroy also never had blazing speed (he always looked more like a small linebacker to me) and Al had the instincts and the run support ability to play the position, but the Packers look to be in good shape there as well.
I also have no doubt that the locker room will not take this well. Everything I here about Al Harris off the field is hugely positive. He's a nice guy, a leader, and a true professional. The Packers on Twitter (Finley, Grant, etc.) were pretty pissed off, and surprised, and I suppose I'm surprised too, but mainly because I didn't think the organization would have the guts to make a move like this.
"At times, you're going to say why are you running so much? That's the style I like to play. I've seen it win a lot of games over the years. At times we're going to get thrown out. But over the course of the season we're going to score more runs by being aggressive."
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
1. San Diego
2. Indy (How much have you heard about Peyton Manning’s down season?)
3. New York Jets
5. Patriots (Note: Only 4 games so far)
6. Detroit (Note: All teams above the Lions are from the AFC, meaning the Lions have scored more points than any team in the NFC. Interesting, no?)
8. Green Bay
Except for the highest scoring team in the league, and the poor Lions, every team on this list has a winning record. #11 is Oakland, by the way.
2. Top 10 in Point Differential
1. NY Jets (54)
2. Atlanta Falcons (43)
3. Tennessee Titans (37)
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (36, only 4 games, all without their starting QB)
5. New England Patriots (35, only 4 games, and tied with…)
6. Indianapolis Colts (35)
7. San Diego Chargers (34)
8. Green Bay Packers (30)
9. Baltimore Ravens (20)
10. Kansas City Chiefs (20)
The Bills are far and away the worst team at -74, but I could see the Panthers making a run at them, sitting in 2ns with -58. The 49ers, who seem to believe they’re actually a good team, are only 4 points ahead of the Panthers. All three of the aforementioned are 0-5. Strangely rounding out the bottom 5 are Arizona (-30) and Jacksonville (-30), both of which have winning records. Oh, what a wacky league.
3. The Packers have yet to play on artificial turf.
4. The Packers would be tied for first place in the AFC South.
5. The Packers would be tied for last place in the AFC South.
6. NFC North – Next 5 opponents and where they rank in Point Differential
Miami – 27th (-26)
Minnesota - 19th (-4)
NYJ – 1st (54)
Dallas – 21st (-6)
Minnesota again 19th (-4)
Average Rank – 17.4
Seattle – 15th (-2)
Washington - 18th (-3)
Buffalo – 32 (-74)
Minnesota – 19th (-4)
Miami – 27th (-26)
Average Rank – 22.2
Dallas – 21st (-6)
Green Bay – 8th (30)
New England – 5th (35)
Arizona – 29th (-50)
Chicago – 12th (18)
Average Rank – 15
NY Giants – 14th (8)
Washington – 18th (-3)
NY Jets – 1st (54)
Buffalo – 32nd (-74)
Dallas – 21st (-6)
Average Rank – 17.2
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Friday, October 8, 2010
1. Providing the San Francisco Giants with the winning run by not calling Buster Posey out trying to steal second.
2. Providing New York with the lead runs by not calling Lance Berkman out on strike 3.
3. Possibly denying us a few extra games as the Yankees are now exceedingly likely to sweep the Twins.
4. Costing Major League Baseball millions of dollars in revenue by (possibly) shortening the Twins series.
Hunter Wendelstedt called an awful game last night. It's never a good sign when even the announcers are complaining about the officiating. He was all over the map with his zone. He noticeably tightened up the zone with 2 strikes. He was a huge factor in the outcome of the game.
What is this, the NBA?
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
“Because Bob Brenly probably did as many stupid things as you can do as a manager and still win the World Series. One of the odd things about the Series was this: Brenly made two terrible moves with his pitching staff, and yet he got blasted by the baseball writers just once…and that was for a move that actually made sense.
Going into the Series against the dynastic Yankees, the big question was, would Brenly get four starts from his aces, or five? Actually, there was another big question too.: if Brenly would ask Randy Johnson or Curt Schilling to start three games, which one. They totaled virtually the same number of innings during the regular season, and Johnson’s ERA was significantly better during the regular season. But where Johnson was number one in the National League, Schilling was number two. Both were well rested; the Diamondbacks had knocked out the Braves on October 21, six days before the first game of the World Series. Brenly chose Schilling for the opener. It was a questionable decision, but Brenly probably deserved the benefit of the doubt on that one; presumably, he knew which of his aces was better equipped to start twice on three days rest.
Schilling was great in Game 1, the Yankees weren’t. After four innings, the Diamondbacks led 9-1. After fice innings, the Diamondbacks led 9-1. Schilling had his W in the bag. Time to turn this one over to the pen, and get an early start on resting up for game 4. But Schilling pitched on.
After 6 innings, the Diamondbacks still led 9-1.
And Schilling pitched on.
Finally, in the bottom of the seventh, Brenly did what he should have done in the bottom of the fifth; he replaced his starter with a pinch hitter. Curt Schilling left the game after throwin 102 pitches.
Johnson started Game 2 and fired a three-hit shutout. Brian Anderson and a pair of relievers pitched well in Game 3, but Roger Clemens and Mariano Rivera pitched better.
So three days after game 1 it’s Schilling’s turn again in Game 4. He was great…but after seven innings he was also gassed. Brenly took him out, the game tied at one run apiece. Arizona took a 3-1 lead in the top of the eight, but then with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Tino Martinez tied the game with a two-run homer off Byung-Hyun Kim. The Diamondbacks didn’t score in the tenth. And then, with two outs (of course) in the bottom of the tenth, Derek Jeter hit another homer off Kim to end the game.
The Media jumped on Brenly for taking Schilling out of the game. That wasn’t fair; Brenly had ample evidence that Schilling was indeed tiring. A smaller portion of the media jumped on Brenly for sending Kim out for thenth, his third inning. That might have been fair; he’d pitched three full innings in a game just once all season, and that was way back on May 18th.
But what everybody somehow missed was Brenly’s big mistake, which was letting Schilling pitch seven innings in Game 1. If Schilling had pitched just five or six innings in the opener, isn’t I tlikely that he could have gone more than seven innings in game 4? If Schilling had lasted eight innings in game 4, isn’t it likely that Kim would have finished off the Yankees in the ninth? Kim retired five of the first six Yankees he faced, four of them on strikeouts. (Of course, all of this assumes that Schilling couldn’t have pitched the ninth inning himself. And if he’d thrown twenty-five or thirty fewer pitches in Game 1, maybe he could have. )
Okay, so Brenly screwed up. He didn’t rest his pitcher when he had the chance, and it probably cost him a World Series game. But Brenly’s a smart fellow; so he learned from his mistake, right?
Nope. Brenly made almost the exact same mistake in Game 6.
The last paragraph is probably the most damning:
“Bob Brenly madetwo great decisions in the 2001 World Series. He chose Curt Schilling to start three games, and he sent Randy Johnson to the bullpen in Game 7. But those great decisions were nearly undone by his ridiculous obeisance to the notion that it’s somehow unmanly for a starting pitcher to come out of a game simply because his team has a huge lead.”
The fantastic range is why Hardy is rated highly by every defensive metric available today. Over about 4.5 full seasons, UZR rates Hardy as a +41 SS, DRS rates him as +38, and TotalZone rates him at +23. Regardless of which one you choose, Hardy has provided fantastic value as a solid glove shortstop, and both the scouting reports and the eye test back that up.
Hardy might not have been as good as his +8 UZR suggests in such a small sample, but the fact that he put up 1.6 WAR in 375 plate appearances before factoring in defense is enough to merit a look. Throw in the fact that a +8 UZR in that sample is legitimately attainable for somebody with Hardy’s defensive prowess, and you have a shortstop that could arguably be the best remaining in the playoffs.
'Melvin had this to say about Brenly rumor: "Unless somebody else has been doing the hiring process, that's not true."'
Bob Brenly may very well be your next Brewer manager. I just want to make it known that Bob Brenly sucks. He's never seen a bunt he didn't like. He likes the "little things that win games" that actually lose games. He's into being a touch guy and not coddling players. He's (debatably) advocated hitting Ryan Braun for the sin of looking at Ryan Dempster funny.
I think basically all baseball managers are bad. Brenly strikes me as extra bad.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
"It was frustrating," Toon said. "I feel like I could have contributed a little bit more but that's just the way the plays were called today. That's how it is some days. It is what it is . . .
"I just think the main issue was I just didn't get enough opportunities to make plays."
Strange comments coming from a guy who single-handedly killed two drives by dropping simple passes. I feel like you could have contributed a lot more as well, Nick...by not playing like absolute garbage.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010
You son of a b......!
“I still believe wins to be very important, but you have to look at Felix Hernandez in context. Look at his ERA. I still think ERA is the single best way to judge a pitcher, and his ERA si a full run better than Sabathia.”
Paraphrase of Cal Ripken on Mike and Mike, yesterday:
“Billy (Ripken) and I have been going back and forth on this, and…I finally convinced Billy, I mean, I think you still need wins because at some point you have to hold pitchers accountable, but in like 9 of Felix Hernandez’s 12 losses he has gotten 0 or 1 run of run support. You can’t hold him responsible for that.”
Now, there’s still a whole lot of stupid in both of those quotes, but look what Felix and the Mariners did. He pitched so brilliantly, and they were so very terrible on offense, that they managed to shine a blinding, all-revealing light on the dreaded “win” statistic. They showed everyone in completely unmistakable, inexcusable clarity just how much the rest of your team matters towards getting a “win.”
I think there is always this fallback notion among the dumber baseball pundits that if your team scores like 3-4 runs that you should be able to use your superhuman power-up abilities to pitch a great game and only allow 2-3 runs, and conversely, if your team scores 7-8 runs that you can just take it easy, save your arm, and allow 5-6 runs. Call it the Jack Morris Hypothesis. No one can claim that Jack Morris hypothesis applies to King Felix.
Just how bad were the Mariners? Read this whole column by the always brilliant Joe Posnanski. Here’s a snippit, but really, read it all.
Their batting splits are a smorgasbord of goodies (or baddies) such as these treats:
-- Mariners' No. 3 hitters are hitting .227 ... which is actually BETTER than their No. 5 hitters (.209).
-- Mariners second basemen, shortstops and catchers combined are slugging .301.
-- The Mariners as a team are hitting .234. The Mariners as a team minus Ichiro are 10 points worse.
The Mariners are historically terrible. And because of their terribleness, it’s possible that in the future the Cy Young award voters will continue to move away from “wins” and towards actual good statistics. Greinke was progress last year. Felix, if he wins this year, will become a benchmark. Any pundit arguing for a low-win candidate in the future will be able to point to Felix and his 13-12 mark.
I’m still a bit concerned that the writers will settle on David Price as a sort of “compromise” candidate, but I don’t think it’s too likely. So here’s to the Mariners and King Felix, for providing a real-world example of what probably should have remained hypothetical.
What would happen if the best pitcher in the league was on a team with the worst offense of the last half-century or so?
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I think that Bill Belichik is the exception that proves the rule. When I watch a Patriots game and there comes a time for a “controversial” decision, I feel like Belichik’s decision is always the one that the other team did not want him to make. If they think they’ve stopped the Patriots at midfield on a 4th and 1, Belichik frequently goes for it, gets it, and just deflates the defense. He is as responsible as anyone for the pass-happy NFL. He runs for a purpose, not just to “establish the run” or some such nonsense. And you rarely hear about clock management issues in New England. These are all big-picture strategy issues. 4th down philosophy has nothing to do with instituting discipline or teaching zone blocking.
Take a look at Mike McCarthy’s recent comments:
~ The offensive line, we knew we were going to put stress on the tackles. We tried to help them out some. Penalties directly affected our point production. That's what cost us. The tackles didn't just draw the penalties, the interior linemen did as well. The tackles graded just OK, but we knew they were going to be stressed out in a loud environment and against a prime player facing Julius Peppers.
~ How do you evaluate the run game. The run game? Depends. What's the definition of a run game? We went in to the game with a specific run plan. I felt the running backs were productive. Brandon and John played well with the opportunities they were given. They played us a certain way... The number of attempts is not always the most important factor. I thought the run production was a positive. Would not be smart to run Brandon Jackson or John Kuhn 25 times a game anyway.
~ We did not win the special teams battle. One of the key objectives was...the team that made the big play in special teams would be a big factor in the game. They made three with two big punt returns and a blocked field goal. We did not do a good job with the fundamentals. We were challenged last week on our depth chart with changing special teams personnel.
These strike me as tactical issues, and I think McCarthy’s answers on these questions are fine. The first gives you son insight into how the play of the interior line can affect the ends. His run game comments show a good understanding of the Bears’ strengths and how to properly attack them. Now let’s look at some “strategic” comments:
On the Jones fumble challenge: "I was standing right there. I had a pretty good indication of what happened. I did see the defensive back's foot swing out of bounds. I was just hopeful that the officials, maybe, you know, saw that his foot may have hit. With 2:18 and two challenges left, you know, that's obviously a huge play in the game, maybe it could swing our way."
This shows a real lack of understanding of your situation in the game. If you do see evidence that Jennings (the Bear, not the Packer) stepped out or was out when recovering the fumble, then this is a fine challenge, but given your situation you have to be absolutely sure because the timeout you will lose if you are wrong is absolutely precious. The Bears were nearly in field goal range already and it was exceedingly likely that they would at least have the opportunity to kick a field goal if nothing else. You have to be thinking about getting the ball back at that point.
On whether he considered letting Bears score at the end: "No, I did not. I did not consider letting them score at the end. I felt they missed a field goal in the game...There was talk about it, but it was not the decision we made."
We have talked about this one already, but isn’t it amazing? “I did not consider letting them score at the end.” Such a meat-head thing to say. No one thinking about what it would take to actually win the game would ever say that.
More teams could use a General. Someone with a vision of what it takes to win (or at least stay in the game) in every situation. Someone who understands that when you are killing the clock, adding another set of downs is often more important than running off 40 seconds on a hopeless running play. Someone who understands when to go for it and when to punt. Someone who understands that when you are down by two scores late in a game you not only need to score, you need to score fast.
This inefficiency could be exploited very easily and very cheaply by any NFL team that cared to do it. It’s almost unfathomable that in the multi-billion dollar business that is the NFL, a head coach would not know that sometimes you need to get the ball back to win, and the only way to get it back sometimes is to let the other team score. All tactics, no strategy.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Look, some things are debatable, but this is not one of them. All morning on the radio, on the internet, and in the real paper I’ve read about the “debate” of whether you should let the other team score in this situation, but those people are all idiot pundits (and by the way, shame on Wayne Larivee for ducking the question on the radio this morning). You coach a professional football team, and your job is to win games. By not allowing the Bears to score, you completely destroyed your team’s admittedly small chance of winning. Don’t believe me? Let’s do some math.
Robbie Gould has been in the league for 5 years, and in that time he has attempted 210 kicks of less than 30 yards (180 PATs and 30 FGs). He has missed exactly once, on a PAT 5 years ago. The odds of Robbie Gould missing the field goal that you were counting on him to miss are so close to 0 as to basically be 0. By giving the Bears a field goal with less than 10 seconds remaining you essentially conceded the game.
If you allow the Bears to score (which, by the way, they were stupidly attempting to do) you find yourself down 7 with about 1:45 to go, with the ball probably around the 20 yard line. I can’t seem to find the exact statistic, but if memory serves I believe an average NFL team scores a touchdown when starting from their own 20 yard line about 1/6 (or about 15%) of the time. I’m sure you have someone who can tell you the exact statistic since you coach an actual NFL football team and presumably employ people to keep this information. If I happen to be off by a few percentage points you can just plug in your numbers.
With a timeout and 1:45 to go, I don’t really think the clock would be much of a factor, but just to make you feel better we will ding them 5% and say that the Packers have about a 10% chance of scoring upon getting the ball back. Should they manage to score they would then need to either go for 2 or win in overtime, both of which are roughly 50/50 propositions.
All in all, if you allow the Bears to score your odds of winning the game go from 0, to about 5-7.5%. Your odds aren’t great, but the smart way is at least possible.
You are terrible at managing the clock. You should hire someone just to manage the clock for you so that you don’t look like such a moron. Please address this before the end of the season. This isn’t rocket science, it’s basically telling time. I have more complaints about the game, but again, there is a right and a wrong answer on this issue, and on this issue you are even stupider than Mike and Mike, and they are, as far as I can tell, the two dumbest people in the world.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
DL: You’ve grounded into fewer than 30 double plays in over 3,000 plate appearances. How meaningful is that to you?
RB: I can’t stand hitting into double plays. I pride myself on hitting the ball in the air. We recently had a series in New York where I made one, maybe two, outs on the ground. That was a three-game set. I pride myself on getting a good pitch to hit and driving it. I want to hit the ball in the air, because that’s where I’m going to do my damage—hitting balls that land on the outfield grass or land in the seats. I’m not going to do any damage hitting the ball on the ground, to the infield, because with my speed I’m just not going to beat out those ground balls.
I think that’s basically my style. A coach once told me that with a strikeout, you stay out of the double play. I don’t think it’s that simple, but it’s definitely a plus when you have a guy up there in a certain situation and you know there is a high [probability] that he’s going to stay out of a double play. He’s going to keep the inning going and allow the next guy to hit, even if he makes an out. Double plays… there are only 27 outs and those are precious outs. If you make two on one swing of the bat, it’s obviously not a good thing.
1. Nick Toon did not play on Saturday, nor did he play last week against SJSU.
2. Nick Toon is the best WR on the team.
3. David Gilreath did not play at all on Saturday, and missed most of last week after stupidly not calling for a fair catch.
4. David Gilreath, aside from being their 2nd best WR, is also an excellent special teams player.
5. Montee Ball isn’t very good, which the coaching staff finally seems to have figured out.
6. John Clay had off-season ankle surgery, and part of the game plan has been to use him sparingly. Montee Ball not being very good has compounded this problem.
7. J.J. Watt spent most of the game injured.
Wisconsin has been operating with a skeleton crew on offense all season, and some struggles were to be expected. The popular idea is that the ASU offense was far better than the Wisconsin offense on Saturday, but it’s actually pretty hard to make that case.
Steven Threet – 63%, 6.4 yards per pass, 0 TD, 0 INT
Scott Tolzien – 76%, 9.8 yards per pass, 1 TD, 0 INT
ASU RBs – 7.5 YPC
Wisconsin RBs Not Named Montee Ball – 5.8 YPC
There is no way to sugarcoat allowing 7.5 yards per carry, but the Badgers were almost as good when Montee wasn’t in the game, and the defense was fighting injuries all day. That said, Steven Threet wasn’t able to capitalize on his fantastic running attack with effective passing (though the refs admittedly helped out a little) while Tolzien and Kendricks used play-action with great effectiveness.
The previous Saturday, the San Jose State game was only close at all because James White fumbled the ball through the end zone when going in for a score. Statistically Wisconsin dominated that game, especially running, where they outgained SJSU 212 to 55 while averaging almost an extra 2 yards per carry. Tolzien again outplayed his competition outgaining the SJSU QBs 8.7 to 8.4, but the run game made a comeback impossible.
Rather than being overrated, it would be more accurate to say that the Badgers have weathered injuries early in the season. They should get Toon and Gilreath back for the start of the Big Ten schedule, which should open up the offense more. James White, I suspect, will move into the Terrell Fletcher role opposite John Clay’s Brent Moss. Tolzien will continue to be his extremely efficient self, and Lance Kendricks will continue to be one of the nation’s best TEs.
There are questions on defense, but when healthy they have looked pretty good. Rather than relying on what are essentially 3 preseason games to judge them, I’d rather take the long view of a team that was very good last season potentially becoming great with another year of experience. No one will know for sure until the Big Ten season actually gets underway, but calling them overrated at this point is premature.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
1. The Bills are good at 1 thing: pass defense.
2. Our best RB is newly out for the year, and this is the kind of game where he probably would have shined.
I just hope they don't get into a situation where the Bills have managed to keep it within a score, it's late, and they're forced to pass every down.
Monday, September 13, 2010
NFC North - Vikings
NFC East - Giants
NFC West - 49ers
NFC South - Saints
Wild Cards - Eagles, Cowboys
AFC North - Ravens
AFC East - Jets
AFC West - Chiefs, I suppose
AFC South - Colts
Wild Cards - Titans, Patriots
Siperbowl - Saints v. Ravens, Ravens winning.
Obviously a lot of this looks stupid given the weekend results. To be honest, I have no idea who will win the two Western divisions. I thought the 49ers would at least play some defense even if they do have a terrible quarterback, but someone has to win that division and everyone but the Seahawks has a terrible quarterback. In the AFC West the Chargers are probably still the class of the division, but they've had a tumultuous off-season. A friend talked me out of the Raiders, thankfully, but I'm already regretting that Chiefs pick.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
While I think this team has the potential to be elite, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-4, they also have a much tougher schedule than last year* and I can easily imagine them going 8-8 (or worse) and missing the playoffs. And if that happens it's entirely possible that they are still a good team.
*I've told this to a lot of people and I invariably get back a response to the effect of "How do you know? The NFL is really unpredictable and while this looks like a tough schedule now it may not by the end of the season."
It's true that this schedule may not be as tough as I think it will be, but I feel like people are ignoring last year's schedule, and we do know concretely that that was a truly simple schedule. Perhaps the schedule this year will not be "difficult", but it is hard to imagine a schedule including the Jets, Patriots, Giants, Falcons, Cowboys, Eagles and Redskins will be as putrid as a schedule that included St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and Seattle. (And a resting Arizona Cardinals team.) Detroit will also almost certainly be better (as they say, you can't fall off the floor). So Buffalo is terrible, and maybe the 49ers will regress since Alex Smith is still awful, and maybe the Falcons aren't as good as people think, and maybe either Kevin Kolb or Donovan McNabb struggles, and maybe Chad Henne kills Miami, and Maybe Revis misses the first 8 games.
These things are all possible, but while there was very little chance of St. Louis or Cleveland or Seattle or Tampa Bay (even though they won, they were still terrible) putting together a decent team, there is a good chance the several of the 2010 group will.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
1. The Zero Bound
You cannot hold a team to fewer than 0 runs. Think about a team made up of average pitchers, 5 Ozzie Smiths (assuming that Ozzie would be brilliant defensively at every position. And let’s leave catcher out of this for now.) and 4 average defenders. Say Ozzie plays 3rd, SS, 2b, CF, and RF, and Mr. Average plays 1st, LF, Catcher, and DH (say we’re in the AL). Already this is a brilliant defensive team. Ozzie in center will cover for most of the deficiencies of the LF, and 1B just isn’t that important a position to defend. Maybe this team gives up 2 runs a game where your normal defensive team gives up 3. Maybe a bit better than that, and maybe a bit worse. Now add another Ozzie. Put him in LF.
How much better did you make the team? The CF Ozzie was already helping Mr. Average LF a lot. Most of the field was covered by brilliant defenders. Most bloop hits were caught. Most plays deep in the hole were being made. Now add another Ozzie at 1st base. How this arguably helps even less. On defense, I would argue that except for catcher each additional investment you make helps you less and less. You are in a situation where you are realizing diminishing returns.
Now take a team of 5 Albert Pujols and 4 average batters. So far this year Albert has been worth about .456 runs per game better than a replacement level player. Average does not equal replacement level, but let’s assume that the replacement level 1st baseman (which is Albert’s baseline when calculating his VORP) is about the same as the average player in general. This may not be true, but let’s go with it. If we sub in another Albert for one of the average batters, we add another .456 runs per game. The Alberts do not cannibalize each other. In fact, by creating fewer outs they may actually help each other slightly. In short, adding offense does not have the same problem of diminishing returns as adding defense. You get more bang for your buck.
2. Balls in Play.
Defense is only effective on balls in play. Over the course of a game of baseball it is entirely possible that very few balls will actually enter a defensible part of the field. There will be home runs, walks, strike-outs, hit batsmen, and the occasional balk. In any given game the defense is probably involved in about half of all plays in any serious way. I think there have even been a few games in history where the only plays in the field were taken by the first baseman, unassisted.
3. Even when the ball is in play, most plays are routine.
Lazy flyballs are easy for almost everyone, and make up a large percentage of flyballs. Sharp line drives are usually hits, and are not catchable by almost anyone. Many grounders are soft, and right at players. Sometimes players his harmless pop flies.
4. Not every ballpark is conducive to great defense.
If you play in Fenway, there is no point in paying your LF for his defense. If you pay your LF for his defense and then play a road game in Fenway, you are at a disadvantage. Albert Pujols’ bat plays anywhere.
5. Defensive metrics are still more of an art than a science.
In short, even though great defense will only have an impact on a small number of plays per game, we’re still not that good at measuring that impact. We’re better than we used to be, and at least we understand the concept that being able to get to a ball and possibly committing an error is better (or at least about the same) as not being able to get to a ball and allowing a “hit”. But we still don’t have that one good defensive number.
I think this is right. I think offense is far and away the more valuable commodity and that a smart GM will wedge good hitters into whatever position he can if their bat is good enough. I think the focus on defense is especially ill-conceived for a big money team like the Red Sox who should be spending their money on guys who can hit. And I think Seattle might be bad for a long time.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Overall, this wasn’t that poor of a trade for either team, although Cincinnati may have slightly overpaid for an outfielder who could see serious regression while giving up a much younger outfielder who could be useful in the future, maybe even now. They’re clearly going all out in the NL Central race, which they should, but I wonder if this move was necessary for them, or if the asking price for Edmonds was really as high as Dickerson. Milwaukee comes away with a big plus, acquiring a solid outfielder just because they offered a Spring Training invite to an older outfielder who hadn’t played pro ball in over a year.