Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Should "women" play "sports?"

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

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

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

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


Who else would fix my oatmeal and clean my bedpan?


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t forget Foxy Boxing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Presumably by impregnating an NBA team?

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 2, 2011

On Tim Tebow…Again.

What is Tebow Good For?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Denver Defense Is The Reason The Broncos Win.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wins, Causation, Correlation, Symbolism

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

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

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

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

1. 1. Defense.

2. 2. Schedule.

3. 3. Luck.

4. 4. Tebow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tim Tebow and QBR: Frauds of a Feather

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

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

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

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

This is so very very stupid.

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

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

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

Tebow would then take over in the 2nd half.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tebow’s 6th run, 1st and 10, 8 yards.

Followed up a few plays later by,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tebow’s 9th pass – spiked.

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Roenicke's Bullpen Flowchart

This is brilliant.

Tragedy of Errors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 3, 2011

Darwin Barney is Legen (wait for it)*

Cubs fans love their grinders. From Ryan Theriot to Mike Fontenot to Juan Pierre, if you’re small and have no power, Cubs fans will probably love you. I, as a Brewer fan, also love that the Cubs faithful love these players as it increases the odds of having them stick around. I’ve always secretly hoped that the Cubs would sign David Eckstein, the grindiest grinder who’s ever grindeded, and while Eck has yet to show up in blue pinstripes, we may have the next best thing on our hands in Darwin Barney, who was signed in the offseason when the Ricketts found him guarding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Most people would have just taken the gold or made a wish, but the Ricketts signed the plucky gent to man the keystone. The Chicago Sun-Times Gordon Wittenmyer thinks this has paid off in spades:

The Cubs’ best player so far this year is also what the rest of the ­season figures to be all about.

Oh, the surprising OBP machine (and likely trade bait) that is Kosuke? Carlos Zambrano who has been steady on the mound and deadly with the bat? The up-and-coming star at SS, Starlin Castro? Carlos Marmol before the last week or so? Matt Garza, maybe? You can make a case for any of these guys…

He’s one of the best reasons to keep paying attention, the leading example of why there might be hope for this rebuild/patchwork process by next year. And two months into a season already circling the National League drain, he’s the Cubs’ best early bet for any kind of postseason recognition.

He must be talking about Castro, right? The 21-year-old phenom whose slick fielding complements his better than average hitting, and who should only get better. He should be a fixture on the north side for years, and the cornerstone of any future post-season campaigns…

And Darwin Barney’s not even on the All-Star ballot.

What the hell does Darwin Barney have to do with Starlin Castro?

Darwin Barney?

Darwin Barney?

That’s how far the shortstop-turned-second baseman — the utility prospect-turned-key starter — has come in the last three months, not to mention how far this season has veered from modest expectations.

Wait, what? Let me check my pre-season list of expectations for Darwin Barney:

1. Who is Darwin Barney?

2. I’ve never heard of him. I expect him to hit for almost no power and barely ever get on base.

3. He may also be bad at fielding.

4. My word, he’s short. Cubs fans will love this guy.

So far he has in fact lived up to all of my expectations. Nice work Darwin!

But as the Cubs open their toughest stretch of the season tonight in St. Louis, with temptation growing daily to wrap Albert Pujols in a $300 million bear hug, save the hugs for guys such as the rookie Barney.

Just so we’re clear,

1. St. Louis is tempted to “wrap Albert Pujols in a $300 million bear hug”, which sounds like some type of Saw-esque death trap, and

2. Wittenmyer is suggesting that we “save the hugs for Barney.”

“Bear hugs” are wrestling moves. They’re aggressive. He’s suggesting that the Cardinals want to lock Albert down. I think I’ll just assume he’s trying to pull off some awkward parallelism with the Barney hug and not assume he wants to give Barney $300 million salary bump to stick around, but with all the fawning praise I’m only like 90% sure.

He’s this team’s future, with the Cubs expected to keep building from within even as tens of millions of dollars fall off the payroll books each of the next two years.

That could be a good thing if Barney keeps developing at this pace. He’s already showing leadership skills and is a stabilizing influence in the middle of the Cubs’ diamond, paired with sophomore hitting star Starlin Castro.

And here we go with the leadership nonsense. So Barney is a leader. What, would Carlos Pena only have 5 HRs without Barney’s leadership? Would Tyler Colvin have been cut outright instead of merely being sent down to the minors?

This is the kind of garbage people write when someone is terrible at baseball, but also cute and likeable. We haven’t looked into Barney’s numbers at all yet, so let’s do that now. Here are the Cubs’ normal starters by OBP:

1. Kosuke - .428
2. Carlos Pena - .359
3. Aramis Ramirez - .346
4. Marlon Byrd - .346
5. Starlin Castro - .338
6. Geo Soto - .326
7. Darwin Barney - .325
8. Alfonso Soriano - .297.

Of course, Fonzi is slugging .525, whereas Darwin Barney is slugging .383. Note also that as bad as the Cubs have been, it can always get worse. Their top four players in terms of not making outs were all born in 1978 or earlier.

Anyway, the point is that Barney is pretty bad on offense, and there’s not a lot to suggest that the empty batting average will fill up with time.

‘‘The so-called youth moment, we don’t look at it like, ‘Let’s get experience for these guys for next year,’ ’’ Barney said as the Cubs prepared for a three-city trip with veterans filling the disabled list and minor-league callups such as Tony Campana, Brad Snyder, DJ LeMahieu and Scott Maine dotting the active roster.

‘‘They’re here to contribute. That’s the way we look at it.’’
Even if they might start feeling more like Mitt Romney’s dog on a road trip by the time this one ends.

Google says that Mitt Romney once drove to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of his car. Ha! Animal abuse! Witty! Trying to capture the Michael Vick fans no doubt.

‘‘The kids that have showed up will be baptized into the National League Central, if nothing else — let alone Philadelphia,’’ Cubs manager Mike Quade said. ‘‘They’re getting a taste, and they’re finding out the rigors here.”

Might as well start force-feeding a bigger taste now — a process that could accelerate over the next six to eight weeks as the Cubs face options for shedding chunks of veteran salary before the trading deadline.

If your season is over it’s not a bad idea to check out your young guys, just don’t have any delusions about the season being over. And also, one thing worth noting about the Cubs is that they gave a bunch of older guys big contracts with no-trade clauses, so “shedding chunks of veteran salary” isn’t really that simple for this team. Back to Barney.

Meanwhile, Barney has become — like Castro, Tyler Colvin and Andrew Cashner a year ago — the newest symbol for the Cubs’ future and hopes.

Tyler Colvin, just recalled from AAA after a miserable start to the season, is in fact a symbol for the Cubs’ future and hopes.

‘‘We’ll take 25 of him,’’ said bench coach Pat Listach, a former Rookie of the Year shortstop who works with Barney one-on-one daily and who agrees the Cubs’ best all-around player is the former fourth-round draft pick from back-to-back Oregon State championship teams.

The Baseball Musings lineup calculator thinks that a lineup composed entirely of Darwin Barneys would score 684 runs this year (4.22 runs per game). The Cubs scored 685 last year so they essentially did play all Darwin Barneys last year. And finished in 2nd last place in a pretty terrible division.

Since we’re talking about Darwin as an “All-Star," why don’t we also plug in one of his competitors, say, Rickie Weeks? A team of all Rickie Weeks would be expected to score 6.073 runs per game, or 983.8 runs per season. Basically, a lineup of Rickie Weeks is 300 runs per year better than a lineup of Darwin Barneys.

‘‘No doubt,’’ Listach says. ‘‘He does the little things right. He’s a winning baseball player.’’

Cubs current record – 23-31. Darwin’s current WAR - .6

Barney, who’s hitting .303 and is second on the team in RBI (25) and runs (28) from the No. 2 spot, is still learning, still new to second base and, consequently, still making mistakes of technique and positioning.

People really are suckers for a .300 BA. I mean, he’s not even very far above .300. One hitless night and all of a sudden we’re looking at an empty .298 instead of an empty .303 and we have no nonsense about All-Star games or franchise cornerstones. The fact is that Barney has walked 7 times this season, or one more time than Alfonso Soriano who basically never walks. Barney is a low-upside out-machine. Do you know why he is second on the team in RBI? Because Kosuke is basically always on base. He has a .428 OBP. Barney’s RBIs are completely a function of Kosuke and have nothing to do with Barney. Barney is proof that anyone hitting 2nd in the Cub lineup would rank highly on the team in RBI. Literally anyone. David Eckstein would have grinded out like 30 by now. By the way, Rickie Weeks has 23 RBI from the leadoff spot.

But he also soaks up coaching, even urging Listach and infield coach Ivan DeJesus to stay on him over the smallest mistakes.

Coaches! You’re not coaching me hard enough! Look, I didn’t even get completely in front of the ball that time! What the hell are you guys doing not yelling at me!?

By the way, we should note that the light-hitting, base-stealing grindy Pat Listach won an ill-gotten Rookie of the Year award in 1992 over Kenny Lofton, even though Lofton was worth 2.5 more wins than Listach and Lofton played what is basically a HOF-level career while Pat (due to an unfortunate catastrophic injury) was out of the league in just a few years. Just saying.

Along the way, he has earned Web Gem status on national highlight shows.

So has Yuniesky Betancourt and he is the worst regular player in baseball.

He has run the bases as well as anybody on the team.

According to Fangraphs, his base running has been worth .7 runs, which almost makes up for his -1 defensive contribution.

He has been a vocal and heads-up communicator in the field.

All yelling. No signing for Darwin.

He’s even been the best clutch hitter among the regulars, even if potential game-winners like his two-out double in the eighth inning Tuesday against the Houston Astros occasionally are lost in ugliness, such as the Astros’ six-run ninth inning that followed.

Barney has been about a quarter of a run better than normal in clutch situations per Fangraphs, and has a .24 WPA on the season. Carlos Pena has contributed .5 WPA and about half a run better in clutch situations.

‘‘I keep talking about him as an overachiever,’’ Quade said. ‘‘Maybe I just misevaluated him. Maybe he’s not an overachiever. Maybe he’s just damn good.’

I think we can all agree that Mike Quade has misevaluated Darwin Barney.

Maybe even an All-Star — though it’ll take a write-in campaign by the fans or the players since Blake DeWitt is on the ballot as the Cubs’ second baseman.

There are 14 regular second basemen (Minimum, 100 PAs) with higher OBPs than Barney. He’s not particularly good at defense. He has no power. All Star!

‘‘The odds of me making that team are slim to none, even if I was on the ballot,’’ said Barney, who has yet to be recognized by his own team with a concourse banner at Wrigley Field. ‘‘So that’s the last thing I worry about.’’

He insists he concentrates only on playing for the situation and for wins, but he admits an All-Star nod ‘‘would be cool.’’

It would be cool, if by cool you mean demented.

‘‘But I haven’t really thought about it, to be honest,’’ Barney said. ‘‘I’m thinking about the here and now.’’

But Darwin, your future is so bright! I fully advocate the Cubs giving Darwin Barney an 8-10 year extension. You’ve got to lock down talent like this early, and you’ll want to do it before he gets that first All-Star appearance under his belt and his price skyrockets. Act now before it’s too late! Light-hitting, poor defending second basemen only come around several thousand times in a generation.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Loe Down Dirty Shame

Kameron Loe has now appeared in 54% of Milwaukee's games. 30 appearances in 56 games. This, despite the Brewers starting pitchers going deeper in games than any other NL team (I saw that stat on Monday, now I can't find it anywhere...so if I'm wrong I will refund you the cost of your subscription to this fine publication). If he stays on that pace, he'll appear in 88 games which would place him in a tie for 15th all time in most appearances by a pitcher. Last year he would have finished second to rubber armed Pedro Feliciano, who racked up 92 appearances (2nd all time).

One big problem...Feliciano made 92 appearances but only threw 62.2 innings. Loe has made 30 appearances and thrown a whopping 27 innings. He is essntially averaging a full inning in each appearance. If he stays on pace and pitches 88 games, he will pitch 79.2 innings. His previous most innings, as a reliever, was last year with 58 innings pitched.

Loe has become not only the 8th inning guy, but also the "he is effective against lefties" guy. Yes, he has been a useful reliever. However, he has been significantly worse than he was last year (147 v. 91 ERA+) and I cannot see how he could possibly continue to be even this effective should he continue to be ridden hard and put away wet.

It's possible that Roenicke figures he will ride Loe to death while he can, and that made sense when both Hawkins and Saito were hurt. However, Hawkins (who has been a world beater outside of his first appearance) is no longer hurt.

Someone should probably let Ron Roenicke know.

(I'm not blogging much anymore. If you want to read my special brand of bitching follow me @eznark)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The NCAA’s Terrible Black Market – The Levels of Blame

When you outlaw something that people want, people will still get it. It could be birthday cake or heroin, it really doesn’t matter. The important thing to understand is that black markets exist without the normal rules and regulations, and most importantly, without a civilized way to resolve disputes.

The NCAA really is an evil organization. It doesn’t care about the fate of the student-athletes it is supposed to be protecting. It actively exploits them for millions of dollars. It punishes them for activities that are not only perfectly legal for every other member of society, but also perfectly legal for all other personnel involved in NCAA sports (coaches, assistants, admins, etc.).

It allegedly does this in the name of “amateurism” and anachronistic concept from a time when it was considered gauche for a gentleman to accept payment for sport (or for anything else other than old family money). In reality it does this because it makes a bunch of people rich.

So Ohio State got busted doing what almost every Division 1 program does, and the activity itself is something I have no problem with (that is, taking money from boosters/trading memorabilia for tattoos, etc.). And I’ve been poking some fun at them this week on Twitter I realize that it easily could have been my school. So is it fair to make fun of a program that gets busted, especially if the system is evil and corrupt? I look at it like this:

Blame Level One: The NCAA.

It’s evil for all of the previously stated reasons (and a thousand more), and it creates a system where everyone is competing to be as criminal as possible without getting caught.

Blame Level Two: The Coach/AD/Athletic Staff.

The reason I think it’s fair to pick on the program that got caught is because in a black market, the “winner” is generally the most corrupt, most aggressive player. The biggest crime boss, if you will. You get the best players because you game the system better than anyone else, and really, it’s as simple as that.

Blame Level 3: The University Administration.

They turn a blind eye, even though they know what’s going on.

Blame Level 4: The Player.

They’re mostly just victims of a needlessly complicated overly restrictive system and it’s illegal for them to even get advice on how to best handle their careers. On Mike and Mike this morning Golic said that he blames the players first. That’s ridiculous. The NCAA is ruled by a bunch of old, smart businessmen who know perfectly well what they’re doing. Jim Tressel is a grown man, perfectly aware of the rules, who knew exactly what he was doing. The players are stupid kids (note: when you are 19-22, you’re a stupid kid) who are expressly forbidden from making any extra money. I’m fairly sure that if I was in their position I would happily take a few extra bucks on the side, because it’s not wrong. In general if something isn’t wrong I have no problem doing it.

And if the players want to play in the NFL they have no other choice. If you’re a baseball player or a hockey player with professional aspirations, you have a few options besides college. (This is becoming truer for basketball as well.) If you want to play football, they’ve got you.

Some people I’ve talked to seem to think that you can’t blame anyone if you think the system is corrupt and you should blame the players if you believe the system is just. That’s silly. The system and all of its active participants are corrupt to different degrees. We should put blame where it is appropriate.

Friday, May 20, 2011

You know what sucks?

• It's supposed to be an NL Central-versus-AL East year. But the only AL East teams the Cubs get to play are (lucky them) the Red Sox and Yankees. Meanwhile, the Cardinals play every AL East team EXCEPT the Red Sox and Yankees.

• And guess which three AL East teams the Brewers get to play? Just the three nobody would want to play -- the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees.

- Jayson Stark

Monday, May 16, 2011

The MLB Blackout Policy

Apparently the Brewer game this Saturday against the Rockies, which starts at 6:10 CST (7:10 EST) will be blacked out because Fox is moving several National games into the Saturday prime time slot, and they have exclusive rights to broadcast games. At least, that's what I read here, via here.

That's pretty annoying. I'm not even sure what the national game is, but if you're a Brewer fan I'm sure you don't care what it is if the Brewers are playing at the same time.

I have a question for Fox and for MLB. This is your blackout policy, quoted directly from the FAQ portion of MLB.com. I have emphasized some important language:

Due to Major League Baseball exclusivities, live games occurring each Saturday with a scheduled start time after 1:10 PM ET or before 7:05 PM ET and each Sunday with a scheduled start time after 5:00 PM ET, will be blacked out in the United States (including the territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands). In addition, in the event of extraordinary circumstances that produce a programming conflict, the above blackout windows may be subject to change. If you are an MLB.TV Premium subscriber outside of the United States, each of these games will be available as an archived game as soon as possible after the conclusion of the applicable game. If you are an MLB.TV Premium subscriber within the United States or an MLB.TV subscriber in any territory, each of these games will be available as an archived game approximately 90 minutes after the conclusion of the applicable game. Archived games are not available through MLB.com Gameday Audio.

7:05 EST is 6:05 CST. The Brewer game on Saturday starts at 7:10 EST/6:10 CST. In my admittedly crude understanding of space/time, 7:10 EST is later than 7:05 EST. Therefore, given the language above, MLB would only be justified in blacking out this game in the event of "extraordinary circumstances."

I am not of the opinion that Fox wanting a few prime time games = extraordinary circumstances.

So MLB, I would like for you to explain to the good people of Milwaukee why exactly they will not be able to watch their team play on TV on Saturday. (And if that blackout extends to MLB.tv, I'd like you to explain to me why I cannot watch my favorite team play on Saturday.)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

"Aggressive Approach"

Few words strike as much baseball fear into me as "new aggressive approach," but to be honest I didn't expect it too have too much impact. The first thing that comes to mind is just more stolen base attempts/caught stealings/wasted outs. That's stupid and sucks, but in the grand scheme of things it's not that bad and lots of teams do it.

The Brewers though, seem to be taking a more aggressive approach in a much more damaging facet of the game: at the plate. Last year the Brewers were 5th in the NL in walks. They were patient, they got guys on (4th in OBP), and they drove them in with power (3rd in slugging).

This season the Brewers are 3rd LAST in walks. In fact, the bottom 3 teams in the NL in walks all reside in the NL central. See below:

NL Central BBs -

STL - 123
Cin - 121
Pit - 120
Mil - 91
Chi - 87
Hou - 83

Note the giant dropoff from 3-4.

The Brewers aren't hitting for quite as much power, but there is not the marked dropoff there (still 6th in slugging). And it will probably also surprise many of you to learn that this team barely ever strikes out (only 3 teams strike out less frequently).

No, this team is swinging at ton, and mostly at bad pitches. They are putting weak balls into play on a regular basis. There's no reason to throw strikes to anyone on the team because most of them will swing at anything.

Some of this you expect with guys like Yuni ad Gomez getting regular time, and Ron Roenicke did himself no favors by batting either player higher than 7th at any point, but it's not just those 2. You don't drop 10 spots in walks based on two people (especially considering that Gomez was on the team last year, and Yuni replaced a free-swinging Alcides Escobar).

It looks to me as if the strategy on the team has fundamentally changed. No longer do they work counts to get a good pitch. I do not believe I have seen a Brewer take a pitch on a 3-1 count this tear. It's probably happened, but I have yet to witness it, and I watch a lot of games.

This team needs to get patient, and they need to do it now. I hate the idea that "aggressive" is something to aspire to in baseball. That it's some manly attribute that helps you win games and that players are all namby-pamby wusses that need coaxing into aggressiveness.

Aggressiveness is easy. It's the default. Going up there and taking hacks is what guys do naturally.

Patience is difficult, and patience is what they need.

This is also just one problem. They also appear to be stupid and bad at defense, but I'm not sure they can fix that. They CAN take a different approach. Keep an eye on their walk total. If they're not in the top 5 by the end of the year, they'll be bringing up the rear of the NL central.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

100 Years Dead and Never Surpassed

When I was a little kid, my family used to travel up to visit my grandparents in Dodge County. We'd go to Juneau and watch my dad play Legion ball, watch ball games with my moms' dad and play in the park. Great little town. I haven't been back in years but the thing that always stands out to me is the yearly Addie Joss Days festival. Joss grew up in Woodland, but is celebrated in Juneau. There was a Legion tournament and clowns and...well, I was a little kid so I remember it as going to a great big carnival. In reality it was probably just the tournament and some barbequing and maybe a ride or two on some years. They don't run the festival anymore and in fact, Juneau doesn't even have a Legion ball team anymore but I can trace my love of the sport, and more importantly the sports' history, to those perfect days.

Anyway, I think I post something similar every year on this date, because to me there will never be a more important baseball player than Addison Joss. Son of a cheesemaker, feller of Rube "The Ringer," and pioneer not just in baseball but in writing about the sport. Addie Joss is an important figure, a legendary figure really...sadly no one seems to remember the legend anymore. Fact is, this state has never produced a better professional athlete and I doubt it ever will. Addie Joss was an all time great and he should be celebrated throughout Wisconsin.

Do yourself a favor, read King of Pitchers.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

John Steigerwald is a bigger moron than you think.

If you've been on Twitter in the past 2 hours you've probably read this truly horrifying column in which Pittsburgh columnist John Steigerwald:

1. Asserts that a fan who was recently beaten within an inch of his life for wearing a visiting jersey is responsible for his condition because he wore said jersey.

2. Spells the fan's name incorrectly.

3. Claims that "drunks" are at fault while simultaneously pointing out the high price of beer at the stadium.

4. At the end of the column, seems to advocate violence in the form of Rob Dibble and Norm Charlton intentionally throwing at Barry Bonds.

Now, this column is horrible and ridiculous on it's own, but a quick glimpse into the man's past reveals that he has a habit of saying crazy, stupid, moronic things:

America is becoming more feminized all the time. Women getting involved (overly involved) in their kids' teams, Very few male elementary school teachers. You hear stories about tag being forbidden on school playgrounds. Effeminate men are celebrated (ever seen Adam Lambert and the fuss that was made over him?). I have a chapter in my book explaining why I would rather have the Three Stooges babysit my kids than Mr. Rogers because Mr. Rogers --who was a better person than I could ever hope to be and did a lot of great things--was a sissy. You're no longer allowed to discourage boys from being "sissies" because that would make you "homophobic". The country will get softer and softer the more we depend on the nanny state to take care of us.There are people in power now who want to take care of us from cradle to grave and they can't find their way to the supermarket. I'm a big self reliance guy and there's less and less of that going around every day.

So, men at ballparks are increasingly drunken thugs, but America is also being sissified by PBS. Got it.

The man seems to specialize in incoherent drivel. He also seems like a genuinely bad guy.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Tweeting a bit today

Rather than have an open thread, I'll just be over on Twitter. The handle is @BadgerNoonan.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

4/5 Let's Get A Win Open Thread!

Look at this murderer's row! Paul said it best earlier: no team has ever missed Corey Hart more. Hopefully I was the bad luck. This is the first game I won't be at, which means it is time to win!


Personally, I would hit Gallardo 6th in this lineup.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

NL Central Prediction

I'm not going to predict final records. Why bother? But I'll take a crack at division order.

NL Central

1. Brewers
2. Cardinals
3. Reds
4. Cubs
5. Pirates
6. Astros

I think the top 3 will be tightly bunched. I also think the Brewers are a risky pick since I feel like their depth is lacking. If they lose a big bat (Weeks for instance) or a top 3 starter (Marcum, for instance), they could finish much much lower. That said, I think they do stay healthy and come out on top.

The Astros will be one of the worst teams ever.

The Pirates are still terrible and the damage done to them will take a long time to overcome, but they will at least top the Astros.

The Cubs will be pesky and could contend with a little luck. Their pitching is still solid. It is far more likely that age will take it's toll and that they will falter greatly.

Cinci will still be a force and I expect them to be in it until the end.

The Cards look to have downgraded at several key positions (Ryan Theriot, Lance Berkman playing the outfield) and have lost their best pitcher for the season. I don't see it this year.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Worst Thing About Nyjer Morgan

Career stolen base percentage = 68.7% This makes his speed a negative.

He has led the league in CS twice.

With Ron Roenicke's allegedly "more aggressive" approach, prepare for a lot of dumb outs.

2011 MLB Predictions: ESK Edition

NL East
Braves (WC)

NL Central
Brewers (89-73)
Cardinals (86-76)
Cubs (72-90)

NL West

AL East
Red Sox
Yankees (WC)
Devil Rays
Blue Jays

AL Central
White Sox

AL West


Brewers - Phillies
Giants - Braves


Red Sox - Twins
Rangers - Rays


Brewers - Braves

Twins - Rangers

Brewers - Twins


AL Cy Young - Francisco Liriano
AL MVP - Nelson Cruz (get paid!)

NL Cy Young - Zack Greinke
NL MVP - Rickie Weeks (get paid!)

I'm high on the Twins for no particular reason other than they have a lot of room to improve, pitching wise and I love their overall talent level. If their pitching can hold up at all (and I am predicting a monster season from Liriano...only because no one else is!) I think they'll so serious damage. Plus, they are playing in a weak division. The regular season is going to be so intense for teams in the East that I think pitchers will be overused, bullpens worn out and hopefully a fight-related broken wrist or two!

Brewers are self explanatory. Greinke will win the Cy Young based on numbers equal to what guys will put up in a whole season despite missing a month. Weeks is going to absolutely blow up. I have a feeling he is going to have to carry a significant offensive burden, and he will emerge as the best 2B in the NL this year.

The Cubs are going to absolutely collapse. A complete, utter and catastrophic collapse that will take all who are present (hopefully Wrigley as well) into a deep abyssal hell from which they won't emerge for a decade. Actually I think they'll be tremendous in two years, but this year they are going to really stink.

Friday, March 25, 2011

All you need to know about the Badgers' loss

Jon Leuer - 1/12 from the field, and that 1 was a 3-pointer. No points in the paint, no free throw attempts.

Jordan Taylor - 6/19, missed 5 free throws, committed 4 turnovers.

This was one of the ugliest games of basketball I've ever seen.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Ugliness of Short Books

If you love baseball and spend too much time reading about baseball on the internet, you've probably heard of the soon-to-be-released book "The Beauty of Short Hops."

In the much-ridiculed press release the authors claim to debunk sabermetrics generally and Moneyball specifically. I planned on purchasing this book for the sole purpose of adding to the ridicule, and to avoid the Joe Morgan hypocrisy of criticizing something without first reading it (or knowing who the author is).

A few reviews are now starting to surface, including this excellent account by Mitchel Lichtman at The Book. Lichtman takes the authors to task on several issues and summarizing his well-developed arguments would only deprive you of the joy of reading his criticism. That said, I have to mention what is perhaps the most damning fact in his review.

When I purchase a book I don't actually put much thought into how long it is, however when I pick up a book in a bookstore (ed: what's a bookstore?) I do feel that the price/weight ratio should make immediate sense to me. I'll happily spend 30 bucks on whatever weighty tome Neal Stephenson has just kicked out, and I'll happily spend 3 bucks on a used Kurt Vonnegut novella. If, however, someone attempted to charge me Stephenson prices for a Vonnegut-sized book I would probably laugh at them and head to a different bookstore. I was therefore quite surprised to read that:

A week or so ago, I received a copy, courtesy of Amazon.com and a blistering $29.95 on my part, or about 38.7 cents a page, considering that the entire book is 116 pages long, if we exclude the preface and the last two chapters, which are some examples of how “quirky” baseball can be, and a “diary” of the 2009 Boston Red Sox season to also show us how beautiful, interesting, and unpredictable baseball games can be, as opposed to the stoic, test-tube version that sabermetricians and new-age stat enthusiasts see through the lenses of their spreadsheets.

Now Lichtman is being a tad disingenuous here. Given his review of the substance, I think we're somewhat out of line discounting the value of the padding, such as it is. That said, the book comes in officially at 212 pages, which is pretty lame for 30 bucks, and even lamer if all of the substance was packed into 116 pages. That's a lot of padding.

So I won't be ridiculing the book just yet. There are still a few open B&N's around me and I suspect I'll be able to dig this one out of the bargain bin in short order, at which point I'll give it the respect it deserves.

Finally, I wonder if they actually should charge a bit more. I suspect their target audience is pretty limited to people who want to make fun of the book, and vocal critics of sabermetrics.

Friday, March 11, 2011

If High Expectations Cause Failure, Why Does Ken Rosenthal Suck So Much

I really didn't have time for this, but now I've seen it quoted by far too many people to just let it go. Anyway,

Oh no! The 2011 Milwaukee Brewers are just like the 2010 Seattle Mariners! And they were terrible! Everyone panic! They both saw an ace pitcher get hurt in spring training! And they were both widely talked about as contenders! And… uhm…Something else!

Or so says Ken Roesnthal who starts an article comparing the Brewers and Mariners with this idiotic drivel:

The news that Zack Greinke hurt his ribs playing basketball evokes memories of Aaron Boone, whose hoops-induced, season-ending knee injury in 2004 prompted the Yankees to acquire Alex Rodriguez.

Gah! Let me tell you a little something about the then 30-year-old third baseman with the mysterious power spike in his 29 and 30 year old seasons. He wasn’t very good. He put up these splits in 2003:


Now that’s not terrible, but it followed a year in which Boone played all 162 games with an OBP of .314. It’s very possible that age was starting to take away Boone’s on-base skills. Boone’s highest ever OPS+ was a 113 in 2007 with the Marlins in limited action, but as a full timer he generally hovered around average. The idea that the Yankees would not consider signing A-Rod because they had Boone is silly in that 1. A-Rod is way better than Boone and 2. A-Rod almost signed with the Red Sox.
In 2003 A-Rod did this:


His OPS+ was 147. His lowest OPS+ as a Yankee came last year with 123. He was also regarded as a good defensive SS (or better than Jeter) who was somewhat wasted at 3rd. Imagine A-Rod’s VORP and WARP and WAR with a SS replacement number instead of a 3rd base replacement number. Anyway the point is that A-Rod is so much better than Aaron Boone ever was that it’s not worth talking about, and that mentioning any of this in the wake of a minor rib injury to a pitcher on a small market team is complete insanity. Or inanity. Take your pick.

I’ve got a more recent and ominous parallel: Cliff Lee.

You mean an awesome pitcher with a history of playing great in the post-season?

A year ago the Mariners were drawing praise for their offseason makeover, just as the Brewers are this spring. Then Lee suffered a right lower abdominal strain in mid-March and remained out until April 30. The Mariners still were in contention when he returned, but unraveled in May and ended up losing 101 games.

Let’s count the stupid:

1. The fact that two teams are “drawing praise” means absolutely nothing, and is certainly not a negative. You know who else is praised for their offseason moves? The Yankees and Red Sox. They do alright.

2. An abdominal sprain is a muscle tear. Zack Greinke has a broken bone. Broken bones, as a rule, always heal better than muscles, tendon, and ligaments. The two are not really comparable in any meaningful sense.

3. “The Mariners were still in contention when he returned”. So they played well without Lee and then stunk it up with him? And this proves what, exactly?

4. As any baseball fan knows, the Mariners had one of the worst offenses in the history of baseball last year. That is not hyperbole. Here, read this.

The Brewers are not going to collapse in such fashion. In fact, they are likely to contend even though they will be without Greinke for at least three starts.

I’ll bet he only misses two, but the important thing is that the Brewers have 2 off days in the first two weeks of the season and have some ability to work around this problem without too much damage.

But all winter I’ve wondered if the Brew Crew are the Mariners of 2011, overrated by fans and media after a series of impressive moves, better on paper than in reality.

They’re not. Look, the Brewers may suffer all sorts of injuries or bad years or what have you, but they are simply not the Seattle Mariners. Last year the Seattle Mariners, an AL team which employs a full-time DH, scored 513 runs. That is comically bad. But keep in mind that in 2009 they only scored 640 runs which is still comically bad. Only the Pirates (bad) and Padres (pitchers park, and also bad) scored fewer. The KC Royals scored more runs than the Mariners in 2009.

And that 2009 Seattle team that went 85-77? It was outscored by 52 runs. Anyone with a decent understanding of baseball could see that Seattle was in for a huge regression to the mean, and that they could not be expected to contend. From 2009 to 2010 the Mariners gained some pitching, but they also lost Adrian Beltre and only got 57 games out of Russell Branyan. In other words, a terrible offense basically lost its two best players.

The Brewers on the other hand feature a borderline great offense that scored 785 runs in 2009 and 750 last year. These two teams could not be more dissimilar.

I’m still wondering.

Dude, I just explained it.

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin did a better job in the offseason than Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik did in 2009-10; Zduriencik acquired Lee, third baseman Chone Figgins and outfielder Milton Bradley, but left his club with too little offense.

Note that we just glossed over Beltre and Branyan.

In truth, not even big spenders like the Yankees and Red Sox can patch every hole, and mid-revenue clubs such as the Brewers often are decidedly imperfect. Melvin fixed his starting rotation without compromising his offense, a nifty trick. But the additions of Greinke and righty Shaun Marcum cannot mask every flaw.
Here are the problems, in no particular order:

No, they don’t, but they make up for a lot. In particular, they fix an absolutely terrible starting rotation, by far the Brewers’ biggest problem. Cliff Lee had no impact on the Mariners’ biggest problem.

Rotation depth

Oh good god. Look, adding two starting pitcher does in fact increase your rotation depth. The Brewers had rotation depth last year only in the sense that Randy Wolf isn’t much better than Carlos Villanueva. The Brewers added two starters who are much better than everyone but Yo. That increases their pitching depth.

The issue will surface immediately, thanks to Greinke’s injury. And a full-blown crisis is possible if something happens to one of the Brewers’ other starters: Marcum, right-hander Yovani Gallardo and left-handers Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson.

Yes, if you have 3 ace-caliber starters, and two of them get hurt, your team will suffer greatly. This is true for every team that has 3 ace-caliber starters. However, if Randy Wolf or Narv-Dog get hurt, that’s really not much of a problem. Chris Narveson has been a nice surprise, but he’s not a kid. He’s 29 and has floated around the majors. There are many Chris Narvesons out there. Randy Wolf is 34 and has been getting shelled for awhile now. He may be better than replacement level, but not by that much.

Also, Greinke’s injury isn’t serious.

“If you look at our current starting pitching, the five guys we have to start the season are tremendous,” left fielder Ryan Braun said before learning of Greinke’s injury. “But if you look after that, we don’t have a lot of proven depth.”

Ryan is just being nice. Three guys are tremendous, and 2 guys are just guys.
It goes on like this for awhile, but let’s skip ahead because what this ultimately comes down to is a writer making an asinine comparison based on the nonsensical idea that the Mariners cracked because of high expectation, and therefore the Brewers will crack because of high expectations:

Listen, I’m not trying to pick on the Brew Crew; Fielder’s final season before free agency could prove memorable for the franchise. The Cardinals took a major hit when they lost right-hander Adam Wainwright to a season-ending elbow injury. The Cubs’ early defensive lapses are alarming. The Reds look like clear favorites, but it’s not as if they’re invincible.

I can see the other side of this — Greinke making a quick return, the bullpen becoming a strength instead of a weakness, Fielder, Braun and Co. going nuts offensively. But I remember how excited so many people were about the Mariners last spring. And I cringe, fearing the expectations for the Brewers are just too high.

Fortunately for Ken, he’ll never have to face the pressure of high expectations.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Braun is Destined for DH


It's the start of the real new year and an end to the darkest week in all of sports. Thank God I can stop watching NBA basketball...pitchers and catchers are here!

Ok, enough glee. Time to ponder the latest Rob Neyer column. (If you've been in a cave like tracker, you might not know that RN is now over at something called SBNation). Rob is looking at players of the coming decade by position. Today it's left field. Personally I think Braun is a slam dunk top three because 1. the position is pretty soft right now 2. Braun has a fantastic bat 3. left field is not hard, it's just not

Neyer thinks otherwise, discounting his bat completely (at least in terms of off-setting his defense):

And finally Ryan Braun, our youngest outstanding left fielder, just three months younger than Gardner. We know that Braun can hit with almost anyone – they don’t call him “the Hebrew Hammer” for nothing – but there is one little problem: He’s not much of a fielder. And considering that 1) Braun’s now been a gardener for three full seasons, and 2) players actually peak as fielders in their early- or mid-20s, it doesn’t seem likely that his defense will improve over the next few years.

Which leaves him and his employers in a bit of a quandary. Because if Braun gets much worse in left field, he’s unplayable out there. And he’s going to get worse. Which is why I’m crossing him off the list, too. For some goodly chunk of this decade, Braun will be either a left fielder with diminished value, or a first baseman (or a DH).

For the moment, I think we’re down to just two very talented men, Josh Hamilton and Carl Crawford.

Now I agree that Braun's negatives diminish his value. That's why they are negatives. But do they do so at such a drastic rate that he is unplayable in the field? Is he destined to get worse and worse as time goes on as Rob claims?

I think the clear answer to the second question is no. The reason your average player peaks defensively in their 20's is because they have been playing the position their entire lives and their natural athleticism is at a peak, boosting that experience. Braun has been in left for three years, giving him roughly an 18 year disadvantage to the "average defensive peak." He showed signs of improvement from 2009 to 2010, if you put much stock in fg's fielding metric. I don't think he will ever be a league average fielder, and I would love for him to slot into 1B (if only because good left fielders are cheaper) but claiming he is definitely, without a doubt, no chance otherwise going to get worse and worse seems kind of dumb.

To the first point...really? Braun has been able to register 4+ WAR seasons in each of his three in left field. His "most valuable" season, 2009 WAR 4.9, was also his worst defensively. Yes his defense hurts him significantly, but so much so that he is nearly unplayable? Sorry, but give me a break.

I would personally put Braun behind the two he ends up with, but I certainly wouldn't remove him from the discussion altogether.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

If I Was A Locked Out NFL Player...

Consider the following, almost certainly true things:

1. Many people (especially in Packer country and to a lesser extent, Bear country) will basically watch football no matter what. In Wisconsin, even the XFL did great.

2. There are open college stadiums everywhere on Sundays.

3. There are network TV stations that do not have NFL deals and would probably be more than happy to show football.

If I were an intrepid, locked out NFL player, I would create a small regional 7-7 flag football league. I would organize the teams as franchises with each participating player taking an equal share. I'd sign an open-ended TV deal with ABC or a bigger cable channel, maybe with a 3 week guaranty with a renewable 1-week option after that. Teams would split the gate and concessions. GB could play in Camp Randall or Miller Park. Chicago could play at Northwestern or Illinois. Detroit could play in Ann Arbor. I'd call it the Lockout Cup.

I would attempt to organize it in tournament form along the lines of the world cup, first with round robin group play followed by a knockout round. And if the labor dispute happened to settle in the meantime I'd preserve the Lockout Cup season in tact in case it ever happens again. This would feed ESPN speculation when a lockout was pending about "the return of the lockout cup" complete with updates about where each franchise stands.

Flag Football has low overhead. It has a lower injury risk than does real football. ESPN would take care of most of their marketing for them (as would Twitter and Facebook), and the NFL has already bestowed the players with valuable brand names. Remember when the Cleveland Indians sold out a spontaneous game in Miller Park? You don't think 40,000 would show up to see the Packers play the Bears?

I suspect that people would show up and tune in. They would get to see their favorite NFL-ers with no helmets, close up, and probably at lower prices. Some would do so just to show solidarity with the players. I'd instruct all participants to be as friendly as possible and to sign autographs as much as possible.

Would big names participate? I believe they would given the proper circumstances, and this idea would not require all of them, just enough of them. This would not just be a way to keep making money, it would also serve several other important functions, namely:

1. Showing the owners that the players can, in fact, survive without them.

2. Showing any anti-trust court that cares that a competitor to the NFL could theoretically exist if it were allowed to.

3. Keeping their skills sharp and their brands current.

4. Swinging leverage completely to the players' side, possibly forever.

5. Fox/CBS/NBC would be apoplectic at paying the owners lockout insurance while ABS is showing live real games.

Is this possible? Probably not. Owners are owners for a reason. But it would only take a few intrepid players and agents to get the ball rolling. Booking stadiums is, in the grand scheme of things, not that hard. Arranging travel is not that hard. Getting a TV network to cover football is not that hard. Creating media buzz via the internet when many of players already have thousands upon thousands of Facebook and Twitter followers is not that hard. Overhead is low.

The only thing this takes is hard work.

Owners have have used replacement players before. Why shouldn't the players try out a replacement organization?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Revisiting My Thoughts On Rodgers' First Game

Thanks to a spam comment on an old post from 9/9/2008 (the day after Rodgers first start) I was able to read what I wrote about both Aaron and Coach McCarthy's play-calling approach with the new guy at the helm. I think a lot of it still holds true and while my enthusiasm was tempered, it needn't have been. Looking

It's tough to glean any real undeniable truths from last night. One thing is certain though, Aaron Rodgers is a capable quarterback. He didn't prove last night that he is an All Pro, but he certainly proved he can play adequately ever
y game, and gave Packer fans a reason to be excited for the season. He threw excellent balls, played under control, flashed some wheels and intelligence on when to use them (haha, Tavaris Jackson). Rodgers also displayed a very strong arm and some fantastic accuracy (that TD toss and a couple of those slants were A+ throws).

Looking at his line from that game (18-22 178 yards 1 TD; 8 carries 35 yards 1 TD) we can see a few things. First, tremendous accuracy. He only had five incomplete balls and if I recall correctly one was a dropped catchable ball on a swing route to Korey Hall. Second is his athleticism. No sacks, 8 scrambles, 35 yards. Not bad at all.

Another point that has held true throughout these past two years is the playcalling of Mike McCarthy when the Packers go up big (we had a 17-6 lead going into the 4th). Now I'm not going to complain too much about the playcalling because he did try and keep his foot on the throat of Pittsburgh in the biggest game of his coaching career, but this could have been written during numerous games this season:

My biggest worry after last night is that Mike McCarthy reigned in the offense once Green Bay took the lead. Starting with that concession field goal at the end of the half (not one shot at the end zone?) it seemed like McCarthy closed the play book. It showed a lack of confidence in Rodgers that I really don't understand.

I hope the Super Bowl gives Mike a bit more confidence going into next year in terms of aggressiveness when up big. Lastly, how correct was this assessment? Now

On the other side of the ball, Minnesota is a very, very good football team, w
ith a Tarvaris Jackson sized albatross around its neck. Hopefully, they stick with him as long as they have Peterson, because if they decide to get even a non-terrible QB, they will be a force.

It was true in 2008 and will be true again in 2012. Unless they get a McNabb or someone similar, the Vikings are doomed to battle Chicago for North dregs next season.

Sometimes it is fun to reflect. For instance, all of the above was brilliant (now obvious) analysis. Additionally I picked the Packers to win the Super Bowl this year. Sometimes it is not so fun, like remembering that I picked Green Bay to bear Cincinnati in said Super Bowl.

I have been a staunch defender of both Aaron Rodgers and Ted Thompson since day 1. When Rodgers was drafted I was sitting in The Harp downtown (Sunday funday) and ran into the street shouting with joy as I stripped off my shirt and threw it into the air. It wasn't just the booze. I was thrilled at the timing of drafting a successor, I was more than impressed with Rodgers athleticism and accuracy (lacking arm strength, but he was wiry so I was confident he could build it) and he had a poise and intelligence that was lacking in the J.P. Lohsmans and Cade McNown's of the world. I knew he would be special. I'm glad that the unbridled enthusiasm I showed that drunken morning has paid off.

Give the DPOY award to a guy the Packers humiliated, give the Executive of the Year award to a guy who build a team that Green Bay destroyed and give the MVP to a guy who can't win a big game without the assistance of an A/V team. These Packers were built with a purpose, a methodical and meticulous attention to every detail (except ST) that will not be matched for years.

Sure it is no longer going out on a limb to say this team is special but God damn it, this team is special. Fuck humility, lets revel in the talent and excitement of the current Green Bay Packers. They won't be good forever but I think they'll be good for a hell of a long time.