Monthly Archives: December 2011

A Christmas Surprise

Silly me, I thought the NFL was played on Sunday. To my surprise, on the way to a 2PM movie, I found out the Panthers were up 10-0 on the Bucs. Huh. How about that. Well let’s jump back in time to Wednesday when I made my Week 16 picks. Home teams in CAPS.

Texans (-5.5) over COLTS
Broncos (-3.5) over BILLS
BENGALS (-4.5) over Cardinals
RAVENS (-13.5) over Browns
Jaguars (+7.5) over TITANS
Raiders (+0.5) over CHIEFS
Rams (+15.5) over STEELERS
PATRIOTS (-10.5) over Dolphins
Vikings (+6.5) over REDSKINS
Giants (+2.5) over JETS
PANTHERS (-7.5) over Buccaneers
Chargers (+2.5) over LIONS
Eagles (+2.5) over COWBOYS
Niners (-2.5) over SEAHAWKS
Bears (+12.5) over PACKERS
Falcons (+6.5) over SAINTS

But all is not lost on the sixth night of Hanukkah, the NBA is back! No more wondering how long before the Pistons get evicted or Chris Paul realizes he’s been traded to the Clippers. Yes, those Clippers. Because the wait is over.

I’m not going to give a 75-page NBA preview like I did for baseball, but I’ll offer a mini-preview for each team.

Eastern Conference:

1. Miami Heat
This team was two games away from winning it all last year without a full to gel. Now they’ve got Shane Battier, a healthy Haslem and Miller, and no Eddie House. With the shortened season, they should be the odds on favorite. Championship or bust. And I think they’ll do just that this year.

2. Chicago Bulls
Adding a real shooting guard in Rip Hamilton will be huge, adding a legitimate scorer for Derrick Rose. The key is Carlos Boozer: when he’s on, they can be the best team in the East, but when he’s playing small they’re the LeBron Cavs. They’re not far behind the Heat, and there’s a huge drop-off from this point on in the East.

3. Boston Celtics
I’m afraid of this pick because of the age of the team and sudden lack of depth–no thanks to Kendrick Perkins, David West, and Jeff Green. But they’ve got the best chemistry in the league, the toughest defense, and the most ubuntu. (You just said teamwork twice… Yeah well I like the word ubuntu). The Celtics will get up for big games but look terrible against the Sixers and Wizards of the NBA.

4. New York Knicks
Tyson Chandler was perhaps the biggest addition of the off-season. While he’s just about the only player who plays defense on the team, New York will clean up in the regular season–baring major injuries. And it’s not like this team is injury prone. Whoops. Remember, New York was 14-14 after the Melo trade. This team is still seriously flawed.

5. Indiana Pacers
As weird as it sounds, the Pacers will be pretty good this year. They’ve got a cadre of effective big men with Roy Hibbert, David West, Beaker, and Jeff Foster along with talented perimeter play from Danny Granger, Paul George, Darren Collison, and George Hill. They’ve still got some cap room, so look for them to add a 2-guard so that Paul George can switch back to his natural position at small forward.

6. Atlanta Hawks
We all know the definition of insanity, right? Doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Well how many times do we have to watch the same team? The only difference from last year is they’ve swapped Jamal Crawford for an older, less efficient Tracy McGrady. Yes, they’re fairly young and talented, but without Kirk Hinrich, they’re not going anywhere without shaking up the roster.

7. Orlando Magic
Dwight Howard said he’s leaving, and GM Otis Smith sure isn’t helping out at all. The team is smothered with terrible contracts, even after amnestying Gilbert Arenas, and the big off-season move was swapping Brandon Bass for Big Baby. They need to jump on the Nets’ offer of Brook Lopez and five–yes FIVE–first round picks for Dwight because he’s more done in Orlando than… than… a pie in the oven an hour too long.

8. Milwaukee Bucks
Yeah, yeah, even Jim Rome could have made a better comp than that last one. But back to basketball. Milwaukee addressed some of their offensive problems adding Stephen Jackson, but at the cost of moving out of the top-10 picks of the draft. They’ve got a stud big man, an electric point guard, and solid defense. Good enough to make the playoffs in the East, but not good enough to win 30 games.

9. Philadelphia 76ers
With no additions, I don’t see this team making the playoffs. Evan Turner is not all he was cracked up to be, Jrue Holiday is an average starter at best, and Elton Brand is no longer fit to start the entire season. They’ll need a big step forward from two of Thaddeus Young, Turner, Holiday, and Jodie Meeks to make the playoffs.

10. New Jersey Nets
Before the Brook Lopez injury, the Nets may have been good enough to make the playoffs because of those two players alone. But that notion is long gone. Their best option at this point is to play rookie Marshon Brooks and second-year man Damion James, hoping one will take off. Now, if they land Dwight Howard, this team could be a threat. A threat to make the second round.

11. Washington Wizards
Last year, I foolishly picked this team to make the playoffs based on talent alone. They’ve still got John Wall, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, and Nick Young. I just understimated the importance of chemistry and plain ol’ basketball IQ. Or just IQ. In the past year, they’ve added Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, and a personal favorite of mine, Jordan Crawford. This team is very much a project, but a talented one at that.

12. Detroit Pistons
Where to start… where to start. The good news for the Pistons is that they’ve got two building blocks in Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight. Yeah, I’ll pass on Rodney Stuckey and Austin Daye. Unfortunately for them, they’re nowhere close to making the playoffs, but not quite in the league of the Cavs, Bobcats, and Raptors for worst teams in the league.

13. Charlotte Bobcats
The Bobcats are full of potential good players (Kemba, The Big Smack, Henderson, Tyrus Thomas, and DJ White) but no good ones. Their big off-season move was landing Byron Mullens. Yikes. And if you need one sentence to sum up how this season will fare, try this: Corey Maggette and Boris Diaw will lead the Bobcats in scoring. You can bet this team will be looking at Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis, Jared Sullinger, or Andre Drummond next year.

14. Cleveland Cavaliers
As crazy as it is that the Cavs got Kyrie Irving for Mo Williams, they’re still a terrible team. It makes no sense that 36-year old Anthony Parker is starting, but he is better than Christian Eyenga or Alonzo Gee. Before long, Antawn Jamison will be moved to make way for Tristan Thompson and the team will really start to show their awful colors.

15. Toronto Raptors
As I noted this July, the Raptors may actually have the right idea, drafting an extremely talented player (Jonas Valanciunas) who can’t come over for a year–saving money and delaying a big pay day–so that you can tank for another great player. I call it double-tanking. It’s a great strategy for Bryan Colangelo, except he probably won’t be a part of this team when it’s actually competitive.

The Lakers' inexplicable dump of Lamar Odom could very well put the Mavs over the top. Then again, adding Khloe Kardashian could be killer.

Western Conference:

1. Dallas Mavericks
When the Chris Paul-to-the-Lakers trade fell through, Lamar Odom fell into Dallas’ lap, pushing them over the top of the Western Conference. More so than any other team in the West, this team has incredible depth. Dirk. Terry. Kidd. Marion. Odom. Vince. That’s not even mentioning Brendan Haywood and Rodrigue Beaubois.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder
A trendy Western Conference pick–and my pick to lose in the Finals to the Heat–the Thunder are about as talented as any team out there. My only issue with the team is how many shots Russell Westbrook likes to take. He needs to be more of a creator, getting James Harden and Serge Ibaka more involved. Basically deferring to Durant in crunch time would help, too.

3. Memphis Grizzlies
Shocker, yes, but what’s not to like about the team. They were nearly in the Conference Finals last year–without their best player. They’ve got two dominant big men, a scoring wing man, and two (nearly) competent guards. I’ll also bet you that one of Josh Selby, Xavier Henry, and O.J. Mayo really takes off this year. 30-1 odds sounds great for this team, except that the Heat are absolutely going to win.

4. Los Angeles Clippers
This team reminds me of the 07-08 Hornets. The Clippers have their own Chris Paul (Chris Paul), David West (Blake Griffin), Peja Stojakovic (Caron Butler), and Tyson Chandler (DeAndre Jordan). Additionally, they have an array of quality guards in Chauncey Billups, Mo Williams, and Randy Foye. They’re young, deep, and exciting. They’re still a player away from a real championship run, like a shooting guard, say, Eric Gordon.

5. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are a potential disaster team. Kobe is grumpy, Gasol knows he was nearly on the way out, Bynum knows he could be bait for Dwight Howard, and Metta World Peace is even worse than Ron Artest. The CP3 trade isn’t what put the Clippers over the Lakers; the loss of Lamar Odom is what did them in. Now, Josh McRoberts is their fourth best player. They don’t have good chemistry, they don’t have any good point guards, and they’ve lost their depth. This isn’t looking good.

6. San Antonio Spurs
The shortened schedule is really going to kill the Spurs. They swapped George Hill for T.J. Ford and Kawhi Leonard, which isn’t going to cut it while the Heat, Mavs, and Knicks made big improvements. I don’t rank them this low because I doubt their ability to compete but because I don’t think they’ll be able to–nor want to–go all out all year. I wouldn’t want to face San Antonio in the playoffs, but there will be more than a few games during the regular season when their Big Three plays less than 60 combined minutes.

7. Denver Nuggets
I’ll give the Nuggets this: they’re deep. But they’re not too talented. Nene is a keeper, but I don’t love Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson, and Arron Afflalo. They could do a lot better in the regular season because of their depth (Birdman, Jordan Hamilton, Rudy Fernandez, Kenneth Faried, Andre Miller, Al Harrington…). But if and when they do make the playoffs, they’ll be lucky to win 3 games.

8. Portland Trailblazers
Raymond Felton, Gerald Wallace, Nolan Smith, Elliot Williams, did North Carolina move west? Well even without Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, this is a strong team. LaMarcus Aldridge, Wallace, Felton, and Marcus Camby makes for a strong core, especially with guards Jamal Crawford and Wes Matthews. It’s a good team, but its not good enough to compete for a title.

9. Utah Jazz
While watching Deron Williams in a Nets jersey stings, Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and the promise of another lottery pick look even better. Sometime soon, Al Jefferson needs to be moved since he’s not a part of their future and is owed $29 million. Utah’s on the right track, but they’re not playoff good yet.

10. Houston Rockets
Houston was so close to adding Pau Gasol and Nene. But it just wasn’t meant to be. Now, they’ve got to settle with Samuel Dalembert, Luis Scola, Chase Budinger, Kevin Martin, and Kyle Lowry. They’re still young, though, with Patrick Patterson, Courtney Lee, and Marcus Morris. The only way they’re going high places is if one of their many reclamation projects (Hasheem Thabeet, Jordan Hill, Terrence Williams, and Jonny Flynn) works out.

11. Golden State Warriors
All offense, no defense, same story. I love Stephen Curry, but this is the same team as last year. Instead of drafting an athletic defender–Kawhi Leonard would’ve been perfect–they took another no defense shooter. Nice.

12. New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets actually got a great haul for Chris Paul and a solid starting five. The problem is they have no very good players and zero depth. They’re looking for a Jazz-like recovery, but I’m concerned that Eric Gordon won’t want to re-sign, and we’ll have to go through this entire song and dance again.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves
How many point guards and athletic wing players can one team hoard? I like Derrick Williams, but isn’t he the same player as Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, and Anthony Randolph? This is the most talented Wolves team in years, but they’re still years from competition.

14. Sacramento Kings
There will never be enough shots to go around. Tyreke Evans needs his shots, Jimmer needs his shots, Marcus Thornton needs his shots, John Salmons needs his shots, Donte Greene needs his shots, J.J. Hickson needs his shots, DeMarcus Cousins needs his shots… and you get the point. They don’t have chemistry, they’re not going anywhere.

15. Phoenix Suns
It’s really sad how bad the Suns have become. Marcin Gortat is a quality big, but the rest of this team is just terrible. Who’s the third-best player? Jared Dudley? Channing Frye? Shannon Brown?? Steve Nash deserves better.

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Explaining Timmy Tebow

He’s more controversial that Anthony Weiner. He’s more clutch than LeBron in the first quarter. He’s more famous than the Pope.

Tim Tebow is a man of many descriptions. Worse throwing mechanics than Ronnie Brown. Less accurate than your local weather man. More likely to run than Rex Ryan is to make that order Super Sized. (Man I am really firing on all cylinders today).

But to the Broncos–or at least everyone in the Broncos organization not named Fox or Elway–all that matters is that he wins games. If you’re watching a recording of the game, you might as well fast forward to the fourth quarter because you’ll spare yourself two to three terrible overthrows, some mis-read coverages, and just about the worst quarterbacking you’ve ever seen. But when it comes down when it really matters, Timmy Tebow shows up.

Last June, I dove into why I liked Tim Tebow as a draft pick. He’s an unequaled leader, sound enough mechanically, and ultimately is a proven winner. And he’s proven me right on all accounts.

But the one thing that really sets him apart is his lack of turnovers. He may not kill you through the air like Aaron Rodgers, but he throws an interception just 1.01% of the time. That’s good for tops in the league. He makes the other team really earn a victory–he isn’t going to give away possessions like Cam Newton is apt to do all to often.

You can credit him as much as you’d like for the Broncos resurgence. 50 percent. 30 percent. 2 percent. But you must admit this: the team is much more alive with Timmy Tebow at the helm than Kyle Orton.

Willis McGahee summed it all up when he said this: “It’s cool everybody doubts us. Don’t respect us. All we know is, if it’s close at the end, we’re gonna win.” More so than any other sport, willpower can drive a team over the top in football. This is a dangerous team, especially when the get a first-round home game after winning the AFC West.

Week 15 picks follow; home teams in CAPS.

FALCONS (-11.5) over Jaguars
This is a ton of points to swallow, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned this year, it’s that Blaine Gabbert may not even be the 4th best rookie QB.

Cowboys (-6.5) over BUCCANEERS
I love my boy Josh Freeman, but the rest of the team is terrible. And although Dallas will really miss DeMarco Murray, Tony Romo will have plenty of time to pick apart the Tampa defense, which has really regressed since Gerald McCoy’s injury.

Dolphins (+0.5) over BILLS
At what point do the Dolphins get some respect? When they play an overrated team on the downswing that no one respects? Oh, they’re not even favored against Buffalo.

Seahawks (+4.5) over BEARS
Seattle always seems to step it up at home during primetime and shrink in any other game, so this doesn’t make much pick in that respect. But I don’t think the Bears can recover from losing Jay Cutler and Matt Forte. That’s too much to lose for a team with so many holes already.

Bengals (-4.5) over RAMS
I still don’t love the Bengals, but if they’re going to make a playoff run, they have to beat the Rams on the road. Put it this way: I’ve never really liked

Packers (-13.5) over CHIEFS
I thought the Raiders had a shot against the Packers. By that, I mean keep it within 11 points. And the Chiefs are no Raiders. My favorite point in the Chiefs’ debacle of a season is yanking Tyler Palko from the middle of the Chicago game, putting in Kyle Orton, Orton breaking his finger after one play, and having to put Palko back in. Because they definitely believed in him the whole time.

Titans (-6.5) over COLTS
Chris Johnson looks like he’s back, Jake Locker looks alright, and the Colts look like the Colts. Wrap this one up.

You can't spell "Playoff Elimination" without Eli Manni--oh wait I'm taking the Giants this week.

Saints (-7.5) over VIKINGS
How is this line not double-digits? We’ve got a rookie quarterback and a banged up running back going up against the second best team in the NFC. Drew Brees knows the #2 seed and a bye are on the line, so this one shouldn’t even be close. Lock this one up–as the Lance in my Pants Lock o’ the Week.

GIANTS (-7.5) over Redskins
I don’t love the Giants, but I’m forced to take them when they play terrible teams like the Redskins. I don’t like Ben Stiller movies, but when Twilight is playing on the other screen, you’ll see me running back to Little Fockers.

TEXANS (-6.5) over Panthers
I desperately wanted to pick the Panthers. But then I remembered they don’t have a defense. I might just play Ben Tate over Cedric Benson in my fantasy semi-finals because there’s a really, really, really good chance he’ll get between 120 and 160 yards on his 8 carries this game. Oh, did I mention the Panthers are terrible defensively?

Lions (-1.5) over RAIDERS
No McFadden, not taking the Raiders.

Browns (+6.5) over CARDINALS
Seneca Wallace can do one thing Colt McCoy could never: not fall below expectations. Seneca Wallace’s expectation is to not lose by 21. Against John Skelton and the Cardinals, I think he can do that.

Patriots (-6.5) over BRONCOS
Tim is not Tom.

EAGLES (-2.5) over Jets
Just like last week, I know I’m almost definitely going to lose this game. They’re struggling to not even stay afloat while the Jets are actually–get this–in a playoff hunt. But I have too much pride. And Tyler Palko threw for more yards than Mark Sanchez in a 37-10 Jets romp last week.

Ravens (-2.5) over CHARGERS
The Chargers are legitimately bad. Their defense is bad, they don’t get push on either line, and Philip Rivers is bad now. And the Ravens are my Super Bowl pick.

STEELERS (+1.5) over Niners
There’s been some (bad) arguments that Andy Dalton should be the Rookie of the Year based on record alone. Wrong. First off, if record is everything, give the award to Randall Cobb, whose Packers are 13-0. And by that logic, Alex Smith is a better QB than Tom Brady. Alex Smith is not better than Joe Flacco. Colin Kaepernick is probably better.

Last Week: 8-8

Season: 103-105

Lance in my Pants Lock o’ the Week: 10-4

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A Rookie of the Year Debate

Cam Newton.

Here are my Week 14 picks; home teams in CAPS.

STEELERS (-13.5) over Browns
I hate to give up nearly two touchdowns, but Colt McCoy has turned from a promising young quarterback to a step above Jimmy Clausen. Look for Rashard Mendenhall to have a field day against the Browns’ 31st ranked run defense.

Falcons (-2.5) over PANTHERS
Cam continues to impress, but Atlanta has an actual defense, unlike Tampa. And while I don’t like Atlanta as a playoff team, I love them tonight. They’ve got just too many offensive weapons to be thwarted by Charles Johnson, James Anderson, Charles Godfrey, and the eight practice squad players that make up the Panthers D.

T.J. Yates may not throw interceptions in Championship games, but I'd rather get that far than lose in the first round to the Jets.

Texans (+3.5) over BENGALS
If I’m the Texans, I make a call to Hattiesburg to see if Brett Favre will come out of retirement. T.J. Yates is good enough to stay afloat, but not good enough to win in the playoffs. Arian Foster and Ben Tate are a fantastic running duo, but when Huoston falls behind, TJ will be hard pressed to lead his team from behind even the Patriots’ D.

LIONS (-7.5) over Vikings
The Vikings’ pick of Christian Ponder 12th overall looks even worse right now because of just how deep this next quarterback draft class is. Andrew Luck. Robert Griffin III. Matt Barkley. Landry Jones. I’m not so hold on Jones, but three teams will find a franchise QB next May. And the Vikings will be picking in the top 5.

Saints (-3.5) over TITANS
This line makes absolutely no sense to me. Yes, Chris Johnson is averaging over 122 yards per game in the last three games, but Matt Hasselbeck isn’t in the same zip code as Drew Brees. To me, the Saints have the best chance in the NFC to beat the Packers. The Titans? I wouldn’t take them against the Raiders. I’m calling a big game for Lance Moore because this is your Lance in my Pants Lock o’ the Week.

RAVENS (-16.5) over Colts
I almost never want to give up more than two touchdowns, but this is the Colts we’re talking about. The difference between Baltimore and New England is that when they go ahead of the other team by a significant margin and start to pound the ball, the Ravens have Ray Rice instead of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead.

JETS (-8.5) over Chiefs
As bad as Mark Sanchez is, Tyler Palko is worse. He has one touchdown (a Hail Mary) and six interceptions. Six interceptions! The only way a quarterback so bad could keep his job is if the backup is a player who got cut for a QB who can’t throw competently. Whoops.

Eagles (+3.5) over DOLPHINS
I know I’m almost certainly going to miss this game. And I know the Eagles season keeps going from bad to worse while the Dolphins pick up momentum. But I can’t take Miami. I “believe” in Vince Young.

Patriots (-7.5) over REDSKINS
Rex Grossman, John Back, it doesn’t matter. The Patriots are going to roll this week.

JAGUARS (+1.5) over Buccaneers
Josh Freeman may not be playing, and even if he does, he’ll be banged up. Furthermore, I’ll take the Jaguars D and running game over the Bucs lack of both.

BRONCOS (-3.5) over Bears
I believe in the Tebow! Timmy Tebow, you will lead your flock to the promised land, praise the Lord! No Forte, no Cutler, this game is no problem. The Broncos are winning the AFC West. Wait, what?

Niners (-3.5) over CARDINALS
The Niners are favored by 13.5 at home against the Rams, win 26-0, then are only favored by 3.5 on the road versus the Cardinals? Kevin Kolb is a worse quarterback than Alex Smith. Come on Vegas.

CHARGERS (-6.5) over Bills
Maybe the Chargers aren’t dead yet. The shut down the pass (which neutralizes the Bills’ only strength) and can pound the ball with Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert. Guess what Buffalo can’t do. That’s it, stop the run.

Raiders (+11.5) over PACKERS
The chance that Carson Palmer beats Aaron Rodgers is between 2 and 1.7%, but I like the Raiders to keep it at a respectable margin. They’re going to feed Michael Bush the ball and bring the pressure to disrupt Mr. Rodgers’ game. The Giants showed this is how you can (come close to) beat them.

COWBOYS (-3.5) over Giants
The Giants just aren’t that good. They’ve got a pass rush and a great group of receivers, but the run game can’t stay healthy. The Cowboys are a solid all around–not great in any one category, but they don’t have any holes. Holes like a 29th ranked run defense, 23rd ranked pass defense, or 32nd-ranked run game. Cough, cough, Giants.

SEAHAWKS (-6.5) over Rams
Who scheduled the Seahawks and Rams for Monday Night Football, thinking it would even be an alright game? Whoever scheduled Alabama against LSU again, right?

Last Week: 10-6

Season: 95-97

Lance in my Pants Lock o’ the Week: 9-4

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D.O.S. (Death of Statistics), Pt. III

Hold up, only writer to rewrite history without a pen
No I.D. on the track, let the story begin, begin, begin

There’s long since been a debate about what the word “value” means when applied to the Most Valuable Player award. Does the winner need to be a hitter? Shouldn’t the most valuable player be on a playoff team? But there’s no standard definition of “Most Valuable”–that is left up to the voter’s discretion, as stated by the BBWAA.

To me, the most valuable player is the best player in the league. Every player provides value–or in some cases take away value (Yuniesky Betancourt)–to their team whether they are on the Yankees or the Pirates. A win is a win, and each win is valuable–just some teams are short on wins and short on value.

But before we can dive into which player from each league actually provided the most value, we need to take a look at which stats should be taken into account, and which ones are just plain out-dated. Let’s dive in.

This is the Death of Statistics, moment of silence.

Just like pitching, the first stats that come to mind when discussing hitting are often the worst. Batting Average. Runs. RBI. All three are next-to-irrelevant when it comes to comparing two players. The problem with the first is that batting average does not paint the whole picture, while the second and third don’t actually illustrate the player’s contributions.

One of the biggest differences between baseball and any other sport is that there’s no clock. Sure, pitchers are supposed to take no more than 15 seconds between pitches, but watching just one Sox-Yankees game can debunk that myth. The point is that the only way to end the game is to record 27 outs. Therefore, the only goal at bat is to not make an out. If you don’t make an out, the game doesn’t end. And if your team never makes an out, your team never stops batting, and you win.

Batting average does not measure the ability to not make an out, it gives no value to walking. Walking after all, never results in an out, so it’s one of the best things you can do at bat. On Base Percentage is, therefore, the quintessential offensive stat. In short, OBP is life.

In the first two parts of this series, I’ve stressed moving away from statistics that are subjective or can’t be explained, but now I’ll add one more bad type: individual stats that largely depend on teammates’ play. This is where stats like RBI and runs turn sour.

RBI stem from the thought that players play differently with runners on base. To be quick, this is not true. Batters generally hit better with runners on base because pitchers are coming out of the stretch, and a pitcher who gives up baserunners is more likely to give up another baserunner than a pitcher who repeatedly gets hitters out. Over the long haul, however, hitters regress to the mean in high pressure situations; they are ultimately the same hitter they are when all is said and done.

Not only do players not change during these situations, but the RBI stat is completely dependent on how many of said situations are presented to the hitter by the player’s teammates. Over a 162-game season, Yuniesky Betancourt will have more RBI than Prince Fielder if every time he comes up to bat with the bases loaded while Prince gets empty bases. Yuni’s .271 OBP may pale in comparison to Prince’s remarkable .415 mark, but he was presented with better opportunities, so he gets more RBI.

The fallacy in runs stems from the same problem. While runs are what wins games (the real goal), the individual stat for runs is completely dependent on teammates. Once the hitter reaches base, everything else is dependent on other players. If they steal bases, the opposing battery combo plays a rather large part in whether they eventually score. Plus, it’s far from fair to penalize players for hitting in front of Edgar Renteria instead of Joey Votto.

One of the best statistics, while still imperfect, has to be WAR. Quite simply, it measures the wins added compared to a replacement-level player, or Wins Above Replacement. The result is a simple number: then number of wins the respective players adds. While the formula for calculating WAR can be complicated, it’s a rather simple process.

Here’s the skinny. For offensive WAR, take the hitter’s wOBA–a weighted on base metric–divide it by the relationship between wOBA and runs and multiply it by the relationship between runs and wins. Then, you take the player’s UZR–already measured in runs saved–and multiply it by the relationship between runs and wins. Next, you take the player’s UBR–a similar measure to UZR, only dealing with runs added through baserunning–and multiply it by the relationship between runs and wins. Lastly, a positional weight is added since corner positions have a better replacement-level player than up-the-middle players.

While there are still faults with the stat (take for example the toughness of quantifying the gravity of a great defensive catcher), WAR is a fairly encompassing stat that is great for comparing players. WAR isn’t a good way to check if a trade is fair, especially if younger players are involved, but when debating between which player had a better season, it’s about as good of a metric as you’ll find.

While weeding through the garden that is the world of statistics, it’s time to turn our attention back to the MVP awards. For the AL, a pitcher was awarded MVP for the first time since 1992, including the first time it was awarded to a starting pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1986. Personally, I think pitchers are quite viable candidates, but this year the voters did not pick the most valuable player of 2011.

There were three clear candidates for AL MVP: Justin Verlander, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jose Bautista. There’s the clear-cut Cy Young winner, up-and-coming superstar, and the masher on a non-contender. What ended up actually happening was the voters put a large stock in the play of teammates into an individual award. This isn’t an award for the best player on a good team, it really is more of an award for “Which Player Would You Want To Base Your Team Around Given This Season’s Production.” And with that being said, there’s no way you should factor in the play of teammates for this award.

But even if you did say that your team should raise or lower your standing for this award, there are several flaws in the argument for Verlander. For one, if you say the Blue Jays would be bad without Bautista, I could retort with the fact that the Red Sox and Tigers would still be good without Ellsbury and Verlander. Furthermore, Bautista literally brought the Blue Jays up from a losing team to a .500 team.

Even if you talk about meaningful games being played, Bautista gains an advantage over Verlander. The Tigers ended the season 15 games above the next-best finisher in the woeful AL Central (where no other team managed even a .500 season), while the Blue Jays were only ten games out of the wild card. Ergo Bautista brought his team closer to the playoffs that Verlander separated his team from the next-best team.

I suppose Justin Verlander, in large part, won the MVP since Miguel Cabrera posted a ridiculous .448 OBP, giving him the run support for his 24 wins.

Another argument for Verlander is the number of batters he faces in a season (969), which is much more than Ellsbury, who leads the league in plate appearances, or Bautista ever reached the plate (732 and 655). I believe these figures are misleading, though. That’s only accounting for Ellsbury and Bautista’s offensive impact, which is half of their games. The pair had 394 and 333 chances at balls, which puts their total batters faced at 1126 and 988. Oh, and Verlander only pitched in 34 games, not even 21% of Detroit’s games.

Ultimately, this award should come down to which player preformed the best. Of the trio, Ellsbury had by far the highest WAR (9.4) followed by Bautista (8.3) and Verlander (7.0). But while WAR paints a great picture, it doesn’t cover the whole story. As I’ve stated before, On Base Percentage is by far the best offensive measure, and one player is far and away the best: Jose Bautista.

Leading the league in on-base for nearly the entire season, Bautista posted an incredible .447 OBP. Production like that is irreplaceable for any team; he kept his team in the game by not producing an out nearly half the time. Not only that, but he put up incredible power numbers, leading the league in ISO by a good distance–he posted a .306 ISO followed by Curtis Granderson and Mike Stanton at .290 and .275 respectively. He was versatile in the field and smart on the basepaths.

In the end, the case can easily be made for Ellsbury for MVP, but I prefer the .447 to .376 OBP advantage. Bautista is an absolute force at the plate and a nightmare for any pitcher. Last year, many (including myself at times) thought he was a mirage, but this season validated his greatness with a .069 boost in OBP, 2.3 boost in UZR, and finally a 1.5 boost in WAR.

The oddest part to me, thought, of the AL MVP conversation was the swing of support in the last week for Jacoby Ellsbury. On the fourth to last game, Ellsbury launched a go ahead 3-run homer against the Yankees in the 14th inning against Scott Proctor–a pitcher with a 10.80 ERA at the time. That shot nearly won Boston the pennant, and consequently the MVP award. Then, the very next night, he dropped a deep fly ball by Robert Andino, which turned into an inside the park home run, consequently nearly losing him the MVP. But what did him in with the voters was the Red Sox missing out on the playoffs. Had the Red Sox beaten the Rays one more time, he’d have been the runaway favorite. And that’s not what value is.

The National League, on the other hand, didn’t have such a controversial pick. Although I disagree with Ryan Braun over Matt Kemp, there were valid reasons for both side. They put up nearly identical astounding OBPs (.399 and .397 respectively), nearly identical massive power numbers (.265 and .262 ISOs), nearly identical running numbers (3.3 and 2.9 UBRs), and nearly identical poor fielding numbers (-3.8 and -4.6 UZRs).

Similarly to Ellsbury and Bautista, what ultimately did Kemp in was his lack of good teammates. Milwaukee won the Central by 6 games, and the Dodgers finished 6.5 games out of the Wild Card. But what’s even stranger than that, is how close to winning the MVP he was but for 8 hits.

If Matt Kemp had 8 more hits over the whole season–that’s 3 every two months–he would’ve taken home the Triple Crown for the first time in 44 years, including 74 years since Joe Medwick last brought it home for the NL. Belonging to such prestigious company would have undoubtedly launched Kemp to the top of nearly every ballot. But do those 8 hits really mean so much to his season? I’m sure you could pick out 8 error calls, trap plays, and bang-bang plays that should have gone his way with less than an hour of watching film. Eight hits should not an MVP make.

The stats were close, but Kemp played a tougher position, ran better, and put up more home run power. But Ryan Braun knows why he won, and he divulged the main reason in an interview with MLB Network: “There are multiple candidates who I believe were deserving. I think ultimately, the reason I won is because they put a better team around me. Without a doubt, that’s a huge reason that I was lucky enough to win this award.”

So the question comes to you: what is value? Being placed in the right situation, or just producing the most over a long season. You can’t take what teammates do into account for individual stats and individual awards, which has become an unhealthy problem for voters and fans over the past decade. So please, when you look at the back of your next baseball card, give each stat a second thought.

This is the Death of Statistics, moment of silence.

La da da da

Hey Hey

Goodbye

Categories: MLB | Leave a comment

What Happened to the Quarterbacks?

At the end of my picks, figure out how many articles do not involve awful QB play. Here are my lucky Week 13 picks with home teams in CAPS.

Eagles (+2.5) over SEAHAWKS
It’s pretty amazing that a game between two 2011 division winners could be so bad. But I still have a shred of belief that the Eagles can get back to 8-8. Maybe.

Falcons (-2.5) over TEXANS
Is it more unbelievable that T.J. Yates is an NFL starter or that the Texans are considering starting Jake Delhomme and Jeff Garcia?

Titans (+1.5) over BILLS
At this point, I’m not giving up points to take the Bills. Especially if Chris Johnson is averaging 111 yards per game in the last 3 games. Well at least Buffalo has a good run defense? Oh? They’re 21st in run defense? I’ll take Tennessee.

Chiefs (+8.5) over BEARS
Think about some of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL rights now: Tyler Palko, Caleb Hanie, T.J. Yates, Josh Johnson, Dan Orlovsky, Blaine Gabbert, Rex Grossman, Matt Moore, Tarvaris Jackson, Colt McCoy, Carson Palmer, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow. Literally a third of the league has a terrible quarterback. And Donovan McNabb is still unemployed…

STEELERS (-7.5) over Bengals
The reason the lines against the Bengals get so high are because of people like me who don’t respect them at all. There’s a good chance the Steelers win by exactly one touchdown (just like the Ravens two weeks ago) and I lose this game by a half point, but there’s no way I can depend on Cedric Benson and the Red Rifle against the Steelers’ D.

Broncos (+1.5) over VIKINGS
At one point do we just favor Tim Tebow in every game he’s not playing the Packers or Patriots? My favorite explanation for Tebow is this: He’s like a guy crossing the interstate. The first time you see him try it, you say “There’s no way this will possibly work. Those cars are going 70 mph!” Then he makes it across. Then the next week you find yourself saying the same thing. But by about the fifth straight time he does it, you say, “Watch this, he’s gonna cross the highway!” And that is Tim Tebow.

No words can aptly describe this picture.

PATRIOTS (-20.5) over Colts
This has to be the highest line ever. At first I was shocked a line would ever get so high in pro football. Then I thought about it again, and if there was one head coach-quarterback combination that wouldn’t for a split-second think about taking their foot off the throat of a previously despised rival, it would be the Patriots. I’m now trying to think of how high this line would have to get before I take the Colts. It’d have to be in the 30s.

Raiders (+2.5) over DOLPHINS
More bad quarterbacks! But more importantly, have you seen the picture of Raiders’ middle linebacker Rolando McClain as he’s being arrested for putting a gun to somebody’s head, then firing it near their head? It’s incredible! I’m not sure if he’s insane or just doesn’t care. It’s a bigger mystery than how long Al Davis has actually been dead.

Jets (-3.5) over REDSKINS
It’s a bad quarterback bonanza! But as bad as Shonn Greene and LT have been, the Redskins have been truly awful without the great Tim Hightower. If only the Jets had just a competent QB, they’d be favored by a touchdown. It’s a shame.

Panthers (+1.5) over BUCCANEERS
Yes, only one team fields a team of eleven real defenders, but Josh Johnson is starting for the Bucs. They might be better with the Marlins’ Josh Johnson.

Ravens (-6.5) over BROWNS
Not that Colt McCoy is a bad quarterbac, but, oh wait, he is a bad quarterback.

Cowboys (-6.5) over CARDINALS
The Cowboys are going to win the NFC East without having a good season. That’s how sad of a season the Eagles are having, how much of a mirage the Redskins were, and how un-unstopable Eli Manning is. Come on Citizen Eco-Drive, you’re not convincing anyone saying Eli Manning has precision and power.

Packers (-6.5) over GIANTS
Yes, you beat the Packers by playing smash-mouth football in the cold, but you’re not beating the Packers with Eli Manning.

NINERS (-13.5) over Rams
It’s dangerous to give up so many points with an NFC West team, but it’s also dangerous to put so much faith in a non-Niner NFC West team.

SAINTS (-6.5) over Lions
With Ndamukong Suh, the Lions are one of the most ferocious teams in the league. But without him, they are the Lions. Plus, you know your team is in trouble when you say, “Wow, we’re really going to miss Kevin Smith this game.”

Chargers (-2.5) over JAGUARS
So Jack Del Rio is the first head coach to be fired. I still don’t know what Norv Turner or even Andy Reid needs to do to be fired. But despite the beyond-terrible play by Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, they still have a great shot to finish 4-1 and take the division crown.

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 85-90

Lance in my Pants Lock o’ the Week: 8-4

Categories: NFL | 2 Comments

Fantasy College Basketball

Fantasy sports has taken over this country, surpassing baseball as America’s pastime (I’m only partially joking). But as popular as college sports are, fantasy sports haven’t been able to catch on because of NCAA rules and blah, blah, blah. But being a resourceful man, I’ve come up with a solution!

Since you still can’t use player names, fantasy college basketball has to be restricted to team play. The rules are (relatively) simple: find 4-19 other friends and follow the following rules:

  • Split up the schools between all of the players in a snake-style draft. The suggested amount of schools chosen is about 75, although you can go as high as you’d like. I’d just suggest against splitting up teams from all 31 Division I conferences, since it’d take about 3 weeks to complete the draft.

Regular Season Points

  • Wins get you 1 point.
  • Conference wins double your win’s point value.
  • Beating the #1 team in the nation multiplies your win value by 20.
  • Beating a top-5 team multiplies your win value by 10.
  • Beating a top-10 team multiplies your win value by 5.
  • Beating a top-25 team multiplies your win value by 2.

Conference Tournaments

  • Losing in the finals of the Big East, Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, Pac 12, or SEC gets you 10 points.
  • Winning a major conference tournament gets you 20 points.
  • Losing in the finals of a minor conference gets you 5 points.
  • Winning a minor conference tournament gets you 10 points.

March Madness Seeding

  • Making the tournament as a 1-seed gets you 64 points.
  • Making the tournament as a 2-seed gets you 60 points.
  • …and so on…
  • Making the tournament as a 15-seed gets you 8 points.
  • Making the tournament as a 16-seed gets you 4 points.

March Madness Games

  • Winning a Play In Game gets you 2 points.
  • Winning in the Round of 64 gets you 5 points.
  • Winning in the Round of 32 gets gets you 10 points.
  • Winning in the Sweet Sixteen gets you 20 points.
  • Winning in the Elite Eight gets you 40 points.
  • Winning in the Final Four gets you 80 points.
  • Winning the NCAA Championship gets you 160 points.
  • Winning as an underdog gets you [100+10(Difference in seeding)]% the amount of points for that round.
  • Buzzer Beater wins give you 1.5 times the amount of points.

For example, if North Carolina F#40 wins the Play of the Year Award your team would get 80 points.

Awards

  • A player on your team winning the Play of the Year Award gets you 80 points.
  • Each one of your players finishing as an All-America gets you 40 points.

Scandals

  • If your school is in a recruiting scandal, you get 10 points.
  • If your school is in an illegal benefits scandal, you get 15 points.
  • If your school is in a child molestation scandal, you get 20 points.
  • If your coach is fired mid-season, you get 25 points.
  • For each game of suspension, you get 1 point.

Trades

  • You can trade teams at any time, although you forfeit all rights to that team (all previous points go to the new owner).
  • If half the league vetoes the trade within two days, the trade is nixed and all points return to the previous owner.

Since this isn’t online, and I don’t plan on making a program any time soon, you’ll just have to calculate your scores for yourself. Go crazy, and draft as soon as possible before too much of the season is done.

 

The League:

Andy: Vanderbilt, Illinois, Indiana, Georgetown, Xavier, Cleveland St.

Ben: Duke, Texas, Ohio., Washington, New Mexico, Murray St.

Chris: Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Villanova, VCU

Colin: Virginia Tech, Michigan St., Stanford, Syracuse, BYU, George Mason

Daniel: Baylor, Oregon St., Memphis, Saint Louis, Detroit, Old Dominion

John: North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Kansas St, West Virginia, Creighton

Kevin: St. John’s, St. Joseph’s, St. Bonaventure, St. Mary’s, Santa Clara, Mount St. Mary’s

Mitch: Georgia Tech, Mississippi St., Wisconsin, Arizona, Connecticut, Iona

Reed: Michigan, Minnesota, Purdue, Missouri, Louisville, Dayton

Tate: Kansas, California, Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, San Diego St., Temple

Tommy: Florida State, Ohio State, UCLA, Notre Dame, Harvard, Butler

Tucker: LSU, Florida, Texas A&M, Northwestern, Marquette, UNLV

Categories: College Basketball | 2 Comments

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