Thursday, September 30, 2010

POTUS? More Like FIB

You son of a b......!

Felix Hernandez Makes Everyone Smarter

Paraphrase of Tim Kurkjian on Mike and Mike this morning:

“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

All Tactics and No Strategy

In a nutshell, I think this is what plagues most NFL coaches. Many coaches are former players or “football men.” Most can teach you correct blocking technique, footwork, mechanical issues, etc. Most can break down tape and see what individual players are doing wrong on the field. And most coaches can make adjustments on the fly, at least to some extent. All of these skills are extremely useful, but I think most coaching staffs lack someone with broader strategic thinking.

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

Dear Mike McCarthy,

So you never considered letting the Bears score? With under 2 minutes to play and only 1 timeout? That makes you an idiot.

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.


Paul Noonan

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

PSA: Fire Joe Morgan Reunion Today

Ken, Dak, and Junior are back again for one day only on Deadspin.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Russell Branyan Understands Russell Branyan

From BP:

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.

Why Wisconsin Probably Isn’t Overrated Despite Looking Bad On Saturday

I’ve seen this idea picking up steam after the semi-debacle on Saturday which the Badgers frankly had no business winning. I’ve also seen some revisionist history going around about the San Jose State game which was completely dominated by the Badgers, but ended up looking close-ish on the scoreboard. Let’s keep a few things in mind:

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

Packers - Bills NFL Week 2 Thread

I found myself incredibly annoyed yesterday because I didn't have a place to complain about the Badgers play-calling (averaging 7+ yards per carry, WHY RUN END AROUNDS) so I wanted to make sure I had somewhere to bitch and moan to fellow bitchnmoaners.

I don't expect a lot of trouble and I expect this game to kill any thoughts of a Lynch to the Packers trade. Jackson is gonna step up, Rodgers is going to be firing on all cylinders, and no one will care. ESPN/NFLN will be far too busy strapping on knee pads while praising Favre's 500th TD pass.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why The Bills Scare Me, Just A Little

Don't get me wrong, I think the Packers will probably wipe the floor with the hapless Bills. That said, I find the following facts troubling:

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

Paul's Picks

I've been on vacation, and returned just in time for football. This is a bit late I realize, but I'll keep it to what I thought before Week 1 was actually played. I am very happy about the Packers first win as I had that game mentally chalked up as a probably loss, and I find the ensuing QB controversy in Philly to be hilarious.



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

ESK's 2010 NFL Predictions

AFC East: Patriots
AFC North: Bengals
AFC South: Colts
AFC West: Chargers

Wildcard: Broncos, Jets

NFC East: Giants
NFC North: Packers (12-4)
NFC South: New Orleans
NFC West: 49ers (win the division at 7-9)

Wildcard: Atlanta, Dallas

Super Bowl: Bengals v. Packers

Maybe I am reading too much into the preseason (and last night) but I don't think there are any great teams left. 12 wins will be the most for any team in the league, and a handful of teams will get there. We always say "there are no perfect teams" but I think this year there aren't even any teams with both an above average offense and defense, much less the complete package.

As far as the Packers, I've actually gotten more bullish on the team the more I have seen and heard of Morgan Burnett. There is a very, very real chance that Burnett is a significant upgrade in coverage over Bigby.

Also, while the Packers do have a pretty tough schedule on paper, they do not face a great quarterback until December, and Brady is the only one they face all year long. Obviously there are some good ones in there; Matt Ryan and Tony Romo certainly have the weapons to be great and there is a chance, I suppose, that Favre gets younger than he was Thursday as the season goes on. When the biggest weakness is an unproven secondary, not facing the best QB's in the league is a serious plus and negates some of my concern about that unit.

Therefore I am saying 12-4. They'll go 5-1 in the division, lose at New England, lose at Atlanta and shit the bed somewhere else (maybe benching Rodgers for some of the last game).

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fire Brad Fischer

Do not let him onto the field for the 9th. Disgraceful.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Packers Are Boned Predictions

Every single "expert" picks the Packers to be in the Super Bowl. Even Pat Kirwin, who picks the Vikings to win the division, still has the green and gold making it to the Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers is not only the most oft chosen OPoY but also gets the most number of MVP nods.

I now predict an 8-8 season.

(Not really, I'll be back before Thursday to give real predictions, when I see the final cuts).