Monthly Archives: October 2012

Home Dogs

Trends in sports are very fun–it brings math into the equation a bit. It also makes betting apples a lot easier.

One of the more interesting trends this year has been how home underdogs have played this year. Overall, home dogs are 23-16 against the spread (a very good advantage for apple betters), but the interesting nature of home dogs’ success goes even further.

When replacement refs were tainting the league, the advantage was even bigger with 13 of the 19 home dogs covering. Since then, however, the script has been flipped with road favorites covering in 10 of the 18 games. Historically, home teams get more close calls than road teams, and the problem could very easily exacerbated by uncertain replacement refs playing to the home crowd. (For a more detailed explanation and proof of this, get the book Scorecasting, or read this quick explanation of ref bias in home field advantage. I highly recommend the book.)

If we take another look at how home underdogs have played, there has been another key way of seeing the betting advantage. We’ll look at four different categories of spreads: small dog (0.5 to 1.5 points), field goal dog (2.5 to 3.5 points), Vegas Zone (4.5 to 5.5 points), and big dog (6.5 to 8 points).

Small dogs: 2-5
Field goal dogs: 11-7
Vegas Zone: 4-2
Big dogs: 4-2

It’s a small sample size, but the bigger the spread is, the better the home dogs have performed. This isn’t a law, but it might be the beginning of an interesting trend. Now go wager your apples wisely! …Not that I encourage that behavior.

Without further ado, here are my Week 8 picks; home teams in CAPS.

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games:

Seahawks (+2) over LIONS
Remember when we thought the Lions were good again? Right.

COWBOYS (+2.5) over Giants
Read the section above.

Saints (+6.5) over BRONCOS
The Broncos beat the Chargers last week because Philip Rivers coughed up the ball six times. The Saints may not win, but Drew Brees will not turn over the ball like that.

PACKERS (-16.5) over Jaguars
I hate huge lines like this. Of course, the Packers are going to win, but are they going to crush the timid Jaguars by 17? I had the same dilemma yesterday when a friend asked me if I thought #1 Alabama would cover their 22.5 point line over #11 Mississippi State. I didn’t put any apples on that game, but the Crimson Tide rolled on for a 38-7 win. So I’m going with the Packers.

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games:

Colts (+3.5) over TITANS
Andrew Luck continues to impress, averaging 279 passing yards per game, plus an extra 19 rushing yards per game. He’s also taken a team that went 1-15 last year to already triple it’s win total. It’s stating the obvious, but it needs to be stated: he’s going big places.

Buccaneers (+5.5) over VIKINGS
When both teams are very boring and unimpressive, just take the points. Plus I love Josh Freeman.

JETS (-2.5) over Dolphins
If the Jets want a shot at the playoffs, they need to beat the Dolphins at home. There’s no way around it.

BEARS (-7.5) over Panthers
The Panthers defense was bad enough before Jon Beason was placed on the IR. The Panthers offensive line was bad enough before Ryan Kalil was placed on the IR. This has gone from a Season of Hope to a Season of Nope pretty quickly.

Niners (-7) over CARDINALS
The Niners couldn’t cover an eight point spread last week against the Seahawks. I’m going to use some highly advanced math, but a seven point spread is less than an eight point spread, and the Cardinals are worse than the Seahawks. I’m going with the Niners here.

KFC Double Down Games:

STEELERS (-4.5) over Redskins
Washington is last in the league in pass defense, and Pittsburgh is 6th in passing. Sounds promising. Pittsburgh is 2nd in the league in pass defense, and Washington is 20th in passing. Sounds very promising.

Chargers (-3) over BROWNS
No matter how bad the Chargers were in the second half last week, at least he isn’t Brandon Weeden.

The good news for Chiefs is at least they don’t have to start Jimmy Clausen

Falcons (+3) over EAGLES
How exactly are the undefeated Falcons not favored? And why do people think Michael Vick is still elite?

Raiders (+1) over CHIEFS
I get to pick against Brady Quinn AND get points? This is nothing short of a miracle, usually I have to pick one or the other.

Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week:

Patriots (-7) over RAMS
Whoever doesn’t root for the Patriots in London is just Un-American. USA! USA! USA! USA!

Overall record: 45-56-2

Last week: 7-5

Apple Total: -100

Apple Total Last Week: 60

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A Tip of the Cap to Harbaugh

Just for a moment, my picks were headed in the right direction–two straight weeks of positive net apples. Then last week happened. Without further ado, here are my Week 7 picks; home teams in CAPS.

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games:

Cardinals (+6.5) over VIKINGS
I think it’s about time to hop off the Vikings bandwagon. The Cardinals sure aren’t a lot better, but they should be good enough to keep this within a touchdown.

Ravens (+7) over TEXANS
Losing Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb is killer, but the Ravens are getting Terrell Suggs back this week. Futhermore, the Ravens’ only loss came by one point, and they’ve ripped off four straight Ws.

Redskins (+6) over GIANTS
Coming off a huge with against the Niners, the Giants may be caught looking ahead towards redemption versus the Cowboys next week.

Jets (+10.5) over PATRIOTS
I can just see it: the Patriots jump out to a 10 point lead, slowly start choking away the lead, then escape with a 3-point victory.

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games:

COLTS (-1.5) over Browns
Andrew Luck may not have the flash of RG3, but he’s fifth in the league in passing. RG3? 23rd.

Cowboys (-2) over PANTHERS
Without Ryan Kalil, Jon Beason, and Chris Gamble, I have a hard time seeing the Panthers pulling this one off here.

Blaine Gabbet knows if he keeps losing that his team will draft Matt Barkley or Geno Smith, right?

RAIDERS (-6) over Jaguars
How bad are the Jaguars? I picked up the Raiders as my fantasy defense this week.Oakland is 31st in fantasy defense scoring with a total of -1 fantasy points all year. But they’re going up against Blaine Gabbert, so how bad could they be?

Seahawks (+8) over NINERS
I made this pick at the last second because I was afraid to give up so many points, and this turned out to be on e of the craziest endings to a game for Vegas. The Seahawks were down 7 with under a minute to go on 4th and 17 from their own 4, and Russell Wilson completed a 16-yard pass to Obomanu. Only there was an illegal chop block in the end zone, resulting in a safety. All of a sudden, the Niners were going to cover–until Jim Harbaugh decided to decline the penalty, took away the safety, kneeled twice, and won the game by 7. Amazing.

KFC Double Down Games:

BILLS (-3.5) over Titans
The Titans just aren’t good. The Bills aren’t either, but they don’t have Chris Johnson.

Steelers (-1) BENGALS
The Steelers are a mystery. They’re 7th in passing, 4th in pass defense, and 9th in rush defense, yet they lose to teams like Denver, Oakland, and Tennessee. Then again, there’s no way they fall to 2-4.

Saints (-1.5) over BUCCANEERS
I’m pretty much going to ignore Tampa’s result last week; they were going up against Brady Quinn.

BEARS (-6.5) over Lions
The Bears are not getting as much attention as they deserve, which is crazy since they’re 4-1. They’re averaging 15.6 points more than their opponents, and their defense has been nothing short of outstanding.

Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week:

Packers (-5.5) over RAMS
We’re in the Vegas Zone! The Rams have been keeping their games close, but the Packers just blew out the previously undefeated Texans. Honestly I’m surprised this line isn’t closer to a touchdown because only one of these 3-3 teams here has a chance at the playoffs.

Overall record: 38-51-2

Last week: 4-10

Apple Total: -120

Apple Total Last Week: -115

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Nine Figure Failures

This postseason was nothing short of a disaster for Alex Rodriguez. The former three-time AL MVP hit just 3-23 in the playoffs, was benched in the final games of both series, and was pinch hit for three times. His abysmal performance even inspired the satirical sports news site to create a new stat–WAR-ROD–to measure Postseason Wins Above Replacing A-Rod. But, hey, at least he’s out on the market again, ladies.

Really, this season as a whole has been a disaster for A-Rod. He only played in 122 games (his second lowest total since his rookie season), hit just 18 home runs (again, his second lowest since his rookie season), and had a .353 OBP–just his third worst since his rookie campaign. His defense has been deteriorating as his lateral quickness falls, and things certainly won’t be getting better any time soon.

A-Rod may be putting up rather bad numbers, but the Yankees still have him under contract for five more years. Not just that, they’re on the hook for $114 million over that stretch. Money may be no object for the Yankees, but Rodriguez’s contract is beyond an albatross. It’s more like an overweight albatross on steroids contract.

Chart of players with $100 million contracts

This ushers in a very interesting question: how did the Yankees end up in this unenviable situation? After opting out of his 10-year contract in 2007, A-Rod and Scott Boras somehow convinced the Yankees–the only team on the market who could afford the slugger–to give Rodriguez yet another 10-year deal, this time worth $23 million more.

Despite the fact that only premier athletes earn $100 million contracts, a sad truth in baseball is that nine-figure deals rarely work out well for the team. Contracts to players like Barry Zito, Vernon Wells, and Jayson Werth (all ironically with 7-year, $126 million deals) are already among the worst in the league, and Prince Fielder’s 9-year, $214 million pact looks like a ticking time bomb with Fielder destined to be a DH in four to five years.

There have been 32 total contracts of at least nine figures in baseball history, but the success rate certainly isn’t good. Maybe that’s because 12 of those were players at least 32 when they signed, including four whose contracts expire after they turn 40. Maybe it’s because only eight of the twenty-five hitters play prime, non-corner defensive positions.

Or maybe, just maybe, $100 million deals rarely work out because by the time players hit free agency, they are normally at the tail end of their prime. So during the length of their blockbuster deal, the team gets declining results at increasing costs. Take a look at the numbers.

Graph of WAR vs. Age for players during $100 million contracts.

This graph shows the WAR for every player under a nine-figure contract at each age. Obviously, there’s a clear pattern that WAR and overall play decreases starting as early as age 26. The regression line for the relationship between WAR and age for these nine-figure players comes out to be a nice equation:

WAR = 16.875 – 0.402*Age          R2 = .838

Now, this function is only viable for ages between 24 and 40, since it can be dangerous and assumptive to extrapolate beyond the data set, but the data is very interesting. According to the regression line, $100 million players should drop 0.4 every season. Additionally, 83.8% of the change in WAR can be attributed to age.

To put this in perspective, players given a 10-year contract are projected to have four less WAR in the final season of the contract than than they will at the start of the contract. Albert Pujols produced 5.0 WAR in the final season before his new contract , so under this model, one would expect the final season of his 10-year contract to have 1.0 WAR. To make matters worse, Pujols is due $30 million that season.

Since almost every current contract is backloaded, players have decreasing production while earning an increasing salary.

Some may argue that deep-pocketed teams have a huge advantage over smaller market teams because the Tampa Bays and the Pittsburghs of the world can’t just hand out $100 million contracts, and that is true to an extent. But the ability to spend money doesn’t make a team better, especially when the vast majority of players available in free agency are 30-year old post-prime players.

For non-Yankee teams, signing a player to an inevitably failing nine-figure deal can cripple the organization. Joe Mauer has only compiled 6.5 WAR over the past two seasons, and the Twins still owe him $138 million over six years. Because of that behemoth sum of money, the Twins likely won’t be able to sign another premier player until Mauer’s contract runs up, especially since the team lost 195 games over the past two seasons.

The most effective way to spend money still remains to be developing talent within the minor leagues and acquiring young players. Thanks to arbitration rules, players under 28 really don’t get paid all that much comparatively. And considering the best years of players’ careers come around ages 26-29, it really doesn’t make sense to pay extravagant sums for very good players in decline.

Let A-Rod’s recent play be a lesson to all teams thinking about signing players to blockbuster deals (or in the Dodgers’ case, trading for players with $100 million deals). It may hurt to let a great player go, but there are far more effective ways of spending money than doling out a 10-year contract to a 30-year old first baseman.

Categories: MLB | 6 Comments

Give Me Something New And Shiny

My last five blogs have now been football picks. I’ve been terribly lazy about writing because of college work and my college newspaper, but that should change soon. I promise I’ll write a non-football article this week–if I don’t, I’ll wear an “I Love A-Rod” shirt for a day.

Without further ado, here are my Week 6 picks; home teams in CAPS.

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games:

Vikings (-1) over REDSKINS
I’ve never been a fan of Christian Ponder, and I’m afraid the Vikings might be stuck with him. He’s good enough to keep Minnesota average, which will prevent them from being able to draft a franchise quarterback. But he’s also good enough to edge the Redskins on the road.

CHARGERS (Pick) over Broncos
I feel like Philip Rivers is always playing in primetime. Rivers is actually 7-3 in his career on Monday night with a 66.8% completion percentage and a 105.2 quarterback rating. However quarterback rating is calculated.

Rams (+4.5) over DOLPHINS
St. Louis may have the 3rd worst passing game and be going up against the best rush defense, but they’ve been able to beat better teams than Miami before.

Lions (+3.5) over EAGLES
I can never pick Eagles games correctly. I just can’t. So I’ll take the points.

Steelers (-6) over TITANS
The Titans just aren’t very good. Chris Johnson is no longer a viable back, and Matt Hasselbeck is starting again. If the Steelers want to make a splash this year, they need to be able to beat Tennessee.

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games:

FALCONS (-9.5) over Raiders
The Falcons look great, and Carson Palmer looks like Carson Palmer. In other news, Carson Palmer has been taking even more flak than he deserves because the Raiders gave up 2 first round picks to land him, but he’s still been very bad in Oakland.

Colts (+3.5) over JETS
Could the Jets be any more comical?

Bills (+5.5) over CARDINALS
I’m over the Cardinals fad already. They have a terrible group of quarterbacks and their two below-average running backs are out for the season. Give me something new and shiny.

NINERS (-7) over Giants
This line is probably a little too high, but the Niners are really good. Top in rushing. 2nd in pass defense. A mere 7th in rush defense. Imagine if Peyton Manning came to San Fan…

KFC Double Down Games:

Bengals (-2.5) over BROWNS
When the Jaguars have a bye, my new favorite pastime is betting picking against Brandon Weeden.

BUCCANEERS (-4.5) over Chiefs
Matt Cassel may be bad, but he’s no Brady Quinn.

RAVENS (-3) over Cowboys
The Ravens are one of the three best teams in the AFC, and the Cowboys might not even be one of the three best teams in the NFC East.

I can’t be the only one who sees Bane every time they see J.J. Watt, right?

TEXANS (-3.5) over Packers
It’s strange how quickly the Packers flipped from almost going undefeated to almost having a winning record.

Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week:

Patriots (-3.5) over SEAHAWKS
This game is actually pretty tough to pick for a Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week. The Seahawks give up the least yardage per game and are always fantastic at home with their crazy home field advantage, but how often can you pick the Patriots with such a small line? And such a small line against a pretty average team with a well below-average quarterback.

Overall record: 34-41-2

Last week: 7-7

Apple Total: -45

Apple Total Last Week: 30

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Brief Picks

I’m at Georgia Tech this weekend on Fall Break. Simply put, I don’t want to write a picks column. Without further ado, here are my picks with home teams in CAPS:

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games:

Packers (-7) over COLTS

Eagles (+3.5) over STEELERS

GIANTS (-8.5) over Browns

Cardinals (-2.5) over RAMS

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games:

PATRIOTS (-6.5) over Broncos

How can the Saints possibly be favored against a semi-competent team, let alone the Chargers?

PANTHERS (-3) over Seahawks

Chargers (+3.5) over SAINTS

VIKINGS (-5.5) over Titans

KFC Double Down Games:

Ravens (-6.5) over CHIEFS

BENGALS (-3) over Dolphins

Bears (-5.5) over JAGUARS

NINERS (-10) over Bills

Texans (-8) over JETS

Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week:

Falcons (-3) over REDSKINS

Overall record: 27-34-2

Last week: 9-6

Apple Total: -75

Apple Total Last Week: 75

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