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Just The Sports: 2006-05-07

Just The Sports

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Seriously, Ruth Isn't A God

The closer Barry Bonds comes to eclipsing Babe Ruth's 714 home runs-second to Hank Aaron's 755-the further away sports writers seem to be getting from thoughtful, accurate statements. Instead, their articles demonstrate that they are buying in wholeheartedly to the mystique surrounding Babe Ruth. To do so is a mistake of epic proportions and undermines all credibility they may have possessed. Questions should be raised about sports journalists who expect integrity from the athletes they cover, but themselves possess none.

Another common thread among sports writers whose favorite hobby has become praising Ruth-besides being basically retarded-is that none saw Ruth live or even had one conversation with him. All of these insights of theirs has been gleaned off the favorable stories of Ruth which have been passed down from generation to generation. Ruth certainly benefited from the time he played professional baseball. When he played, the media was much less intrusive because they really had no choice so we do not know all about the players who played. Nowadays, every unsavory story involving a professional athlete becomes a national story within minutes. Perhaps that is the true reason everyone loves Ruth now.

The latest sports writer to leave his credibility at the door is Jay Mariotti.

The producer had me sign a waiver in case Barry Bonds feels like suing, then asked me to look into the camera lens and try not to squint. He was from "Bonds on Bonds,'' the TV show that attempts to massage the irreparable image of a pariah, and he asked a question Thursday that wasn't as strange as it sounded.

"Why,'' the man wondered, "are you here?''

To cover Babe Ruth, I told him.

Then you should probably just go back home because Ruth is dead.

This joyless, steroids-darkened, agonizingly prolonged exercise isn't about Bonds, just so you know. What it's about is a glittering number in Americana -- 714 -- and the everlasting icon who owns it.

Seven hundred fourteen homers is not even the career home run record. Seven hundred fifty-five is.

This is about the most popular athlete our land has known, a legend whose name still lives in the 21st century, and how he's about to fall into third place on the all-time power list because an aloof and widely loathed mope who used the cream and the clear -- unknowingly, of course -- has stuck around long enough to tailgate Ruth.

Babe Ruth is not the most popular athlete our land has ever known. Michael Jordan is immensely more popular. Ruth played in an era where there were two ways the majority of people could follow a baseball game: going to see it live or listening to it on the radio. No longer is that the case with the advent of television and twenty-four-hour-a-day sports networks, making even fringe professional athletes household names across the country.

Of course, it is hard for Babe Ruth to be the most popular athlete when baseball is not even the most popular sport now. Baseball is no longer the nation's pasttime as some diehards would have you believe. American-born major leaguers are becoming more and more scarce as the influx of players from real baseball countries increases. Therefore, it will be hard to make any claim of a baseball player having any sort of supreme popularity.

Another idea which must be considered is whether or not Barry Bonds is as popular as Ruth. Popularity is a measure of how many non-fans, or fringe fans, know a person's name. A common misconception is that popularity is linked to how many people like a particular actor or athlete or supermodel. That is just not true. Whether or not a person's popularity is positive or negative does not change the fact that the person is popular. Take Tom Cruise, for example. Even though a large percentage of the population detests the actor, there is no denying everyone knows about him, fan or not. The same goes for Barry Bonds. Anyone who knows of Babe Ruth knows of Barry Bonds and vice versa.

In the context of dominating their respective eras, Bonds is a pebble in Ruth's cleats.

Only someone who ignores statistics would make that claim. Bonds is anything but insignificant in comparison to Ruth. Bonds is very near his equal and not far from becoming his superior, and I am not talking just home runs. I am talking about as a hitter and a fielder. Right now, Ruth has an advantage over Bonds because he was also a dominating pitcher for a number of years, but if Bonds can stay healthy, he may very well end up surpassing Ruth in terms of runs created for their respective teams.

There's no symbolism in making history against the Cubs.

Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris's single-season home run record against the Cubs. I imagine that was pretty symbolic.

Celizic=Misogynistic Idiot

The world runs a lot more smoothly when sports journalists, no matter how bad they might be, stick to sports topics and resist the the temptation to soliloquize about social and political issues. When they refuse to heed my advice, then disasters like this happen.

The head of the National Council of Women’s Organizations – there is, by the way, no National Council of Men’s Organizations and I’m thinking that’s definitely discriminatory, but I digress – wedged herself back into the headlines the other day.

There is currently no law on the books keeping anyone, including you Mike, from starting up that ridiculous organization. All you have to do is write a charter and convince your other chauvinistic sports writer friends to join up with you. Although, there really is no need for there to be an official National Council of Men's Organizations since there already is one. It's called society.

Oh, and just so you know, men can be members of the National Council of Women's Organization.

That was pretty obvious back when Burk first realized that she could get more publicity in a week by taking on Augusta than she could get in ten years by doing things that were actually useful to the cause of feminism, such as closing the gap in pay between men and women, demanding decent health care for single mothers, and lobbying businesses to provide day care for their employees’ children.

While I applaud you for knowing some of the causes feminists fight for, it is troubling that two of the three issues you list relate to motherhood demonstrating your simplistic idea of what feminism is. Newsflash, Celizic. Not every woman wants to be a mother. Not every woman thinks the greatest thing that can happen to her is to give birth to a child. Not every woman equates motherhood with womanhood.

Here is a refresher course on what feminism really is since you have such a poor understanding of it. At its core, feminism is concerned with eliminating the political, social, and economic inequality between men and women. Now, not even feminists agree on how to go about eliminating this equality, but there are certain issues most feminists agree need to be addressed: reproductive rights, domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, maternity leave, street harassment, and gender discrimination. You see? Not all of them are related to motherhood.

Either there’s total gender equity, or there’s not. And, given the number of women’s groups, there’s not. So take care of that inequity before moving on to the men’s side of things.

You have got to be kidding me. You actually think there is inequity because you are too stupid to realize that men could join national women's groups if they were so inclined? What other foolish notions do you possess? Do you think the NAACP is racist because the majority of their members are black? Or that the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is heterophobic? Seriously, Mike, open up a book and read it.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Francoeur Not Looking For Good Pitches Either

The headline of this article, "Francoeur not looking for walks," may be one of the more obvious statements of the year so far. Not looking for walks is actually commendable for a baseball player. Any player who goes up to the plate looking for a walk will instead find himself with a strikeout and a nice seat waiting for him on the bench. If only Francoeur's problems at the plate were really limited to his hatred of taking four balls.

Remember when Jeff Francoeur talked at spring training about having a different mindset and becoming more patient at the plate? Never mind.

"I guess that mindset went totally out the window when I started 2-for-36," the Braves right fielder said Wednesday, a day after drawing his first walk this season in his 136th plate appearance.

The reason you started 2-for-36 is because of your lack of patience so you never even put into practice what you talked about during spring training. You may have thought you were being more patient because you were waiting until the third pitch to swing instead of the first, but patience at the plate is more than just not swinging at the first pitch you see.

And Francoeur probably wanted so badly to swing at one of the four intentional balls, but he knew how utterly ridiculous he would look if he did so.

He laughed at the recollection, an indication of where this no-walks "issue" ranks in importance to Francoeur.

Less funny is his .259 on-base percentage. When a .300 on-base percentage is replacement-level.

"I don't care," Braves manager Bobby Cox said of Francoeur's walks, or lack thereof. "If you're getting production down in the six-hole [in the lineup], who cares? And he's producing."

No, Bobby, he is not producing. In fact, every day you pencil Francoeur's name into the line-up, you are costing the Atlanta Braves runs. So far into this season, Francoeur's BRAR (batting runs above replacement) is -2; in essence, the Braves have scored two less runs than they would have with a player of only relacement-level major league ability. Bobby Cox would be better off putting the names of all of Atlanta's Triple-A players into a hat, drawing a name at random, and letting that player bat 6th for him and play in right field.

Stuart Scott Chat

For most, Christmas comes once a year. For others, there is finding out that Stuart Scott will be hosting a chat for Due to self-imposed laziness, I will not be giving you a line-by line replay of what Scott said, but I will be providing you with a sampling of his answers to give you some idea of what happens when Scott sits down in front of a keyboard and tries to answer sports questions.

Stuart Scott: Stop smoking....Shaq still best big man in game by far. Why time to hang it up? He's the best passing big man in game by far too..

Stuart Scott: I believe the unwritten codes exist for a reason...I believe in pitcher protecting plate and pitcher deciding when he should brush someone back. The media has no business suggesting a brush was way out of line...I don't want either Papi or Randy telling me how to do hilights....

Stuart Scott: Why think I'm in bad mood? And no, my bed is very comfortable.....

Stuart, I understand this is a chat and you are probably typing really fast to get through your answers to stupid questions and proofreading is not a priority and you probably don't want to do the chats at all (as evidenced by your snarky responses) and ESPN is making you do them anyway because they somehow finagled this requirement into your contract which you probably could not read, but wow, what you typed is barely English at all. It's almost as if a caveman wrote it. A caveman who hates verbs, pronouns, and articles.

I have long had suspicions about Stuart Scott, and reading through this chat transcript has confirmed every one of them. The man is functionally illiterate.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

There Are Other Baseball Players Besides Ruth

(Note: Further updated May 11. Scroll down to the bottom to see the additions.)

Bill Plaschke suffers from old sports analyst's syndrome. Old sports analyst's syndrome is a condition that afflicts many sports analysts across the country who have realized their youth is but a distant memory. It manifests itself in the following symptoms: assuming that the longer ago a player played the better he is, becoming indignant when someone suggests a present-day player is better than some old player who the sports analyst probably never saw play, railing continually about how the players of the present generation just doesn't "get it," and an inability to do actual research.

The puffball reliever will lay the juiced ball on a tee. The padded hitter will use his bloated biceps to smash it deep into the stands. The puffball reliever will lay the juiced ball on a tee. The padded hitter will use his bloated biceps to smash it deep into the stands.

Barry Bonds passes Babe Ruth.

He does not.

Yes, he does. If Barry Bonds hit two more home runs, then he will have passed Babe Ruth on the home-run list. You may not like it, but it will still have happened.

Now, Bonds will still have a ways to go to have contributed as many runs to his teams as Ruth did for his, but I'm pretty sure that's not what you are talking about.

Saying Barry Bonds passes Babe Ruth is like saying the Escalade passes the Mustang.

I have a problem with this simile. When I think Mustang, I think sleek and fast, sort of like how Barry Bonds was in the early part of his career when he was a great baserunner. When I think Mustang, I do not think this...

But a home run is not a personality trait, and statistics cannot measure impact.

Measuring a player's impact is exactly what statistics do. If you truly believe statistics cannot measure impact, and I sincerely hope you do not, then you are in effect undermining your entire argument. The only reason you are even writing this article is because Ruth hit 714 home runs. Therefore, you think he had a large impact on the game of baseball. And home runs, at the time of my writing this post, is a statistic.

Ruth played before the invention of steroids. Ruth played before the invention of batter's body armor. Ruth played before the dilution of pitching staffs.

Wrong. Steroids were invented in the 1930s; Ruth's career did not end until 1935.

But this is a fun game to play. Let's see what else Ruth played before.

Ruth played before improved childhood nutrition resulted in taller and faster adults. Ruth played before lifting weights became a staple for professional athletes. Ruth played before pitchers began taking steroids. Ruth played before the racial integration of baseball. Ruth played before Hank Aaron broke his career home run record.

If you have any more things that Ruth played before, leave them as a comment.

"When I pitched, I owned the plate," Auker said. "Today, batters can stand inside and wear all that stuff on their bodies. Everybody is afraid to throw knockdown pitches. The batter owns the plate."

Since Elden Auker is 95 now, perhaps he has forgotten what his career was really like so I will remind him. When Elden Auker played baseball, he did not own the plate. In fact, he was barely an average pitcher. Auker has a career ERA+ of 101, where 100 is average and the higher above 100 a player is, the more above average his ERA was (above average ERA=lower ERA than league average). His Pitching Runs Above Average adjusted for all-time was -9, meaning for Auker's career he allowed nine more runs than an average pitcher did during the same time frame.

And, yes, well, Ruth competed while taking an illegal substance — he drank alcohol during Prohibition.

Once and for all, it was not illegal to drink alcohol during Prohibition. What was illegal during the Prohibition era was to sell and distribute alcohol. No country, not even America, would be foolish enough to make it a crime to drink alcohol.

Because while Barry Bonds played baseball, Babe Ruth was baseball.

The fact that Barry Bond is the only one baseball player who all sports writers across the nation consistently write about demonstrates that he is baseball in this day and age. Otherwise, he would be ignored like Esteban Yan.

• Bonds has had four sacrifice bunts in his 20-year career.

• Ruth once had 10 sacrifice bunts in one season.

Unless all ten of Ruth's sacrifice bunts came when the scored was tied in the ninth inning, then he was decreasing his team's win expectation.

• Ruth once showed up late and dirty for a Yankee team dinner because he had been playing with kids on a sandlot.

In between innings, Ruth regularly brokered world peace and saved cute kittens that were trapped in trees.

• Ruth inspired the word "Ruthian" and the phrase "out in left field," which referred to children too clueless to sit behind him in the right field bleachers.

Ruth invented English. Before he did so, people communicated by clapping their hands and jumping about wildly. The birth of Ruth rid the world of that ineffective method of communication.

• During the 1934 World Series, Ruth became media, writing for a wire service, breaking every story except the one, written by competitors, that he was retiring.

Ruth developed Morse code, sign language, and the Internet. All in a single day.

• Ruth called everyone "Kid."

Ruth could levitate on command.

• After all-night Yankee parties, Ruth was known to stop by church and drop $50 into the collection plate.

Ruth was turning water into wine waaaaay before anyone had ever heard of Jesus.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Flawed Thinking

Three or four years from now, chances are one hundred percent that I will no longer care about this particular issue. But right now the decision by sports journalists across the country to pick Steve Nash as the NBA's Most Valuable Player. Giving Nash the MVP last year was bad enough, but to do it for the second time in as many years is mind-boggling. In no way am I trying to imply Nash is not a superb player, but there is simply no way he deserves the be called the most valuable player in the league. Unless LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, or Dwyane Wade were ruled ineligible for the award, Nash should not have been able to garner enough votes to walk away with his second MVP trophy.

One line of reasoning for giving Nash the MVP award exemplifies the retarded mental state with which sports journalists approach the sports world. It goes something like this. Since Nash won the MVP last year and he had a better season statistically speaking this year, well then, he must have been more valuable to his team. This is the sort of logic I would expect from a four-year-old child who thinks that four nickels are worth more than three dimes because four is greater than three and nickels are bigger than dimes. Not from sports journalists who are paid to analyze sports.

Another rationale, which is no less flawed, has to deal with Nash's teammates. Anyone who foolishly voted for Nash will probably tell you that he was the best choice because three of his teammates are having career highs in points (Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, and Leandro Barbosa). While the career high part is true, maybe the real reason these three players are averaging career highs in points is because they are also average career highs in minutes this season. Or should we give credit to Nash for their increased playing time, too? And their increased field goal attempts?

But what do I know? I'm just some blogger and these are full-grown sports analysts I'm disagreeing with. Maybe Nash is so valuable to the Phoenix Suns that they lost eight more games this year than last.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Western Conference Playoff Breakdown (Phoenix vs. Los Angeles Clippers)

Phoenix (2) vs. LA Clippers (6)

Congratulations should go out to the Los Angeles Clippers for winning their first playoff series in thirty years. Too bad they have never won a second round playoff series and too bad they will not win one this year because they are playing a superior team in the Phoenix Suns. On the bright side they shouldn't have to wait another thirty years to win another playoff series.

Phoenix Offense: 112 points per 100 possessions
Los Angeles Defense: 103 points per 100 possessions

Los Angeles Offense: 105 points per 100 possessions
Phoenix Defense: 106 points per 100 possessions

The Phoenix Suns play at a more efficient level than the Los Angeles Clippers. However, if Los Angeles can play at the tempo they prefer rather than the tempo the Phoenix Suns enjoy, it will help them play more competitively.

Phoenix Jump Shot Offense: 62.8 pts
Los Angeles Jump Shot Defense: 43.9 pts

Phoenix Close Offense: 23.3 pts
Los Angeles Close Defense: 24.5 pts

Phoenix Dunk Offense: 6.7 pts
Los Angeles Dunk Defense: 6.4 pts

Phoenix Tips Offense: 1.2 pts
Los Angeles Tips Defense: 1.3 pts

Looking at these numbers, it is pretty obvious where Los Angeles should focus its defensive concentration. Whether or not the Clippers will be able to stop Phoenix's jump shooting ability is anyone's guess, but they will have to if they want to win this series.

Los Angeles Jump Shot Offense: 49.0 pts
Phoenix Jump Shot Defense: 52.1 pts

Los Angeles Close Offense: 22.2 pts
Phoenix Close Defense: 25.3 pts

Los Angeles Dunk Offense: 4.5 pts
Phoenix Dunk Defense: 6.7 pts

Los Angeles Tips Offense: 0.8 pts
Phoenix Tips Defense: 1.3 pts

Once again, we have an example of a team's defense matching up well against the way its opponent likes to play offense. In this case, Phoenix can play its usual porous defense and not be too worse for the wear.

On to the net PER to chart which teams gets the most production out of its players.

Point Guard: Steve Nash is not the best point guard in the NBA, but he is better than any point guard the Clippers put on the court. +6.6 to -0.1. Advantage: Phoenix

Shooting Guard: Each team's shooting guards perform worse than their competition, but Phoenix's are less worse. -0.5 to -4.9. Advantage: Phoenix

Small Forward: The same goes for this position, but Los Angeles has the less worse small forwards. -0.3 to -2.8. Advantage: Los Angeles

Power Forward: Los Angeles has the advantage when it comes to this position as well. +9.2 to +3.4. Advantage: Los Angeles

Center: Phoenix has the slight edge when it comes to the center position. +2.2 to +1.3. Advantage: Phoenix

Prediction: Phoenix wins this series in six games.

Eastern Conference Playoff Breakdown (Miami vs. New Jersey)

Miami (2) vs. New Jersey (3)

Despite the uproar among sports journalists after Miami dropped two games in its playoff series against Chicago, the truth is Miami is not that great a team and was not much better than the Chicago Bulls. What should provide some consolation to the Miami Heat is knowing the New Jersey Nets are not a great team either. But the Nets were a good enough team to beat Miami three out of four times this season.

Miami Offense: 109 points per 100 possessions
New Jersey Defense: 102 points per 100 possessions

New Jersey Offense: 104 points per 100 possessions
Miami Defense: 105 points per 100 possessions

Miami is a marginally more efficient team than is New Jersey, but that is still a marginal advantage in Miami's favor.

Miami Jump Shot Offense: 40.9 pts
New Jersey Jump Shot Defense: 43.2 pts

Miami Close Offense: 25.9 pts
New Jersey Close Defense: 22.3 pts

Miami Dunk Offense: 12.2 pts
New Jersey Dunk Defense: 5.8 pts

Miami Tips Offense: 1.3 pts
New Jersey Tips Defense: 1.0 pts

Miami has a clear advantage over New Jersey's defense in terms of scoring in the interior, whether from lay-ups or dunks or tip-ins. For New Jersey to win the game, they will have to find a way to bottle up Miami's impressive interior offense, stopping both Shaq and Dwyane Wade's drives.

New Jersey Jump Shot Offense: 44.6 pts
Miami Jump Shot Defense: 47.4 pts

New Jersey Close Offense: 20.4 pts
Miami Close Defense: 20.2 pts

New Jersey Dunk Offense: 7.1 pts
Miami Dunk Defense: 7.3 pts

New Jersey Tips Offense: 1.4 pts
Miami Tips Defense: 1.1 pts

It is no well-kept secret how poorly Miami plays perimeter defense. Chicago was able to exploit this common knowledge for two games before its shots stopped going into the basket. How long New Jersey is able to consistently make jump shots will go a long way into determining how many games the team wins. As far as scoring on the inside, New Jersey should be able to score at the same clip as averaged during the season.

There is still the net PER to look at to see which teams gets more production from its players. Usually, this is the tiebreaker for who will win the series.

Point Guard: New Jersey wins the point guard battle, but it bears repeating that Jason Kidd is barely better than the opponents' point guards he faces. Still, he will be better than Miami's point guards (+0.7 to -2.4). Advantage: New Jersey

Shooting Guard: Having Dwyane Wade really helps make your team's shooting guards look better. Having Vince Carter helps, too, but not as much. +7.7 to +3.5. Advantage: Miami

Small Forward: New Jersey has a decided advantage in the small forward department, thanks to Richard Jefferson (+3.7 to -5.0). Advantage: New Jersey

Power Forward: New Jersey's power forwards are less worse than Miami's power forwards (-0.6 to -2.0). Advantage: New Jersey

Center: New Jersey gets absolutely nothing from the center position. Miami has Shaquille O'Neal and that helps. Not as much as it used to, but it still helps. +9.0 to -4.7. Advantage: Miami

Prediction: The advantage Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal give Miami trumps the advantage Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson give New Jersey. Miami wins in seven games.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Eastern Conference Playoff Breakdown (Detroit vs. Cleveland)

Detroit (1) vs. Cleveland (4)

While I did go 7-1 in my playoff predictions, there is still no reason to commend myself. Anyone who had the common sense to have picked the eight teams with home-court advantage in the playoffs would have gone 8-0. Still, there is something to be said for looking at statistical data to predict how a team will fare in a playoff series.

Having said that, the one series I did get wrong was the one involving Cleveland and Washington. I predicted Washington would win in seven, but it was not meant to be. Cleveland ended up winning in six games in dramatic fashion as Damon Jones came off the bench to hit the game-winning and series-clinching shot. This came seconds after Arenas missed two free throws, which would have gone a long way in ensuring a seventh game. So where did I go wrong in predicting Washington would win? Did Cleveland do something different in the playoffs compared to how the team performed in the playoffs?

The simple answer is yes, but it was not something good. By all statistical accounts, Cleveland played worse than Washington and probably should have lost the playoff series. The Cavaliers were outscored per 100 possessions by five points, 109-114. They did out-produce the Washington Wizards at three positions, but the overall net PER advantage was in the Washington Wizards's favor. All evidence would seem to indicate that Arenas's missed free throws and Jones's eventual game winning shot were vastly more important than may have been thought. Not only did that sequence of events combine to give Cleveland the series win, but it kept them from playing the extra possessions that probably would have given Washington the advantage.

Even though Cleveland managed to eke out a win against Washington, if the team plays the same way against Detroit, the series will be over in four or five games. Actually, if they play exactly the way they played in the regular season, the series will be over in the same length of time.

Detroit Offense: 111 points per 100 possessions
Cleveland Defense: 106 points per 100 possessions

Cleveland Offense: 108 points per 100 possessions
Detroit Defense: 103 points per 100 possessions

Detroit has a decided advantage when it comes down to which team plays more efficiently. When it comes down to how and where the two teams like to score their points, the outlook gets no rosier for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Detroit Jump Shot Offense: 52.1 pts
Cleveland Jump Shot Defense: 45.9 pts

Detroit Close Offense: 17.5 pts
Cleveland Close Defense: 24.3 pts

Detroit Dunk Offense: 8.5 pts
Cleveland Dunk Defense: 6.2 pts

Detroit Tips Offense: 1.6 pts
Cleveland Tips Defense: 1.2 pts

The Pistons score six more points than the Cavaliers give up so it will be imperative that Cleveland plays superb perimeter defense. Otherwise, they have no shot of winning because they do not play good defense in any other area. So playing against an offensively efficient team such as Detroit will probably expose the holes in Cleveland's defense even further.

If Detroit chooses, they can take advantage of Cleveland's poor interior defense, but only if they want to.

Cleveland Jump Shot Offense: 40.6 pts
Detroit Jump Shot Defense: 39.7 pts

Cleveland Close Offense: 24.3 pts
Detroit Close Defense: 26.3 pts

Cleveland Dunk Offense: 7.7 pts
Detroit Dunk Defense: 7.5 pts

Cleveland Tips Offense: 1.2 pts
Detroit Tips Defense: 1.7 pts

Detroit's defense is tailor-made for Cleveland's offense. Even if Cleveland does everything the way they usually do on offense, there is a strong possibility they will be blown out.

An interesting observation that should be made is Detroit's interior defense is not as great as some may think, calling into question the choice of Ben Wallace for NBA's defensive player of the year.

Perhaps things will get better for Cleveland once we look at the net production it gets from its players, but don't count on it.

Point Guard: Having Chauncey Billups running the point is a big advantage for any team and it shows in the net PER of Detroit's point guards. They outproduce Cleveland's point guards significantly (+9.2 to -9.6). Advantage: Detroit

Shooting Guard: Detroit also has better shooting guards than Cleveland (+0.2 to -5.0). Advantage: Detroit

Small Forward: What Detroit does not have is better production from its small forwards than Cleveland, thanks in large part to Cleveland having LeBron James on the team (+12.3 to +2.7). Advantage: Cleveland

Power Forward: Rasheed Wallace leads the way for Detroit, giving the team a slight edge over Cleveland's power forwards (+1.1 to -0.2). Advantage: Detroit

Center: Ben Wallace doesn't score all that much or that consistently and it shows. Cleveland wins this position battle, too (+6.9 to +2.3). Advantage: Cleveland

Prediction: Detroit wins the series in five or six games.

Western Conference Playoff Breakdown (San Antonio vs. Dallas)

San Antonio (1) vs. Dallas (4)

With the NBA's wacky playoff seeding, by virtue of these teams being in the same division, the fans are treated to a matchup of the NBA's two best Western Conference teams in the semifinal round, probably leading to an anticlimactic Western Conference final round. Still, whatever round these two teams play in, it will certainly be a treat to watch.

During the regular season, the two teams split the series, 2-2 so they are pretty equal in talent. However, it will be interesting to see how these two teams match up over a seven game series.

San Antonio Offense: 108 points per 100 possessions
Dallas Defense: 105 points per 100 possessions

Dallas Offense: 112 points per 100 possessions
San Antonio Defense: 100 points per 100 possessions

There is very little difference between San Antonio and Dallas in terms of how efficiently the play the game. Dallas scores more points per 100 possessions, but they also allow more points per 100 possessions than does San Antonio. Once the net advantage in points is totaled up, San Antonio comes out on top of Dallas by only one point, a marginal difference.

Since looking at the teams' efficiencies did not supply a clear winner, let's take a look at how the two teams score their points.

San Antonio Jump Shot Offense: 45.0 pts
Dallas Jump Shot Defense: 43.2 pts

Dallas Jump Shot Offense: 49.5 pts
San Antonio Jump Shot Defense: 40.0 pts

As far as San Antonio's perimeter offense goes, there should be no problem scoring on the perimeter in the same manner their average suggests. This is because there is such a small difference in how many points Dallas gives up on jump shots and how many San Antonio scores on jump shots.

Where the disparity comes into play is between Dallas's perimeter offense. Most of their scoring is dependent on how well they can shoot from the outside so if San Antonio can play the same sort of defense they played on jump shots during the season, Dallas will be in trouble. If, on the other hand, Dallas is able to shoot up to or near their average, then San Antonio will be in trouble. This battle will turn out to be a big key to the whole series.

San Antonio Close Offense: 28.9 pts
Dallas Close Defense: 23.1 pts

Dallas Close Offense: 21.2 pts
San Antonio Close Defense: 24.7 pts

Dallas will have to pay close attention to the driving of Tony Parker. He led the NBA in scoring in the paint for much of the season and this is reflected in how many points San Antonio averages in shots close to the basket. Couple that with Manu Ginobili's forays into the lane and Dallas will certainly have its hands full with keeping the Spurs guards out of the lane. Also, Dallas has to worry about Tim Duncan's myriad low-post moves. Where San Antonio has to worry about Dallas's perimeter offense, Dallas has to worry about San Antonio's interior offense.

Since Dallas really has no interest in scoring in close, San Antonio has no reason to worry about their level of interior defense.

San Antonio Dunk Offense: 4.1 pts
Dallas Dunk Defense: 5.4 pts

Dallas Dunk Offense: 4.8 pts
San Antonio Dunk Defense: 4.9 pts

San Antonio Tip Offense: 1.4
Dallas Tip Defense: 1.6 pts

Dallas Tip Offense: 1.7 pts
San Antonio Tip Defense: 1.9 pts

Even though San Antonio plays well offensively around the basket, this not a team with players which play consistently above the rim. Dallas's players also do not concern themselves with playing above the rim. There is a negligible difference here at best.

Now, it is time to look at how much production each team gets from the five positions on the court. To examine the difference in production, we will be looking at the net PER rating.

Point Guard: San Antonio has an edge over how much they will be getting from this position (+3.6 to +0.9). Advantage: San Antonio

Shooting Guard: San Antonio also has a slight advantage at this position (+5.6 to +3.6). Advantage: San Antonio

Small Forward: Here, Dallas reverses the trend and out-produces San Antonio at the small forward position (+0.3 to -0.2). Advantage: Dallas

Power Forward: With Tim Duncan splitting his time between power forward and center while Dirk Nowitzki playing almost exclusively at power forward, it is really not surprise that Dallas has a significant advantage at this position (+8.6 to +2.6). Advantage: Dallas

Center: Here, the two teams give the same amount of production from whoever they plug in at center (+0.4). Advantage: Even

Prediction: With the two teams almost idential in terms of efficiency of play and each having an advantage over the other in where they prefer to score, it really came down to the actual production they get from their players. And overall, Dallas has a net advantage when it comes down to the PER rating so the Dallas Mavericks will win in seven games.

Is There Any Job He's Good At?

Why I listen to sports radio at all is a question I ask myself every time I push the power button on my radio and I still do not have a worthy answer. But since I do and since sports radio hosts are mostly buffoons, the ignorance that pours from their mouths does give me fodder for this blog. Today, the buffoon trophy goes to Steve Phillips, who has proven to be as bad a baseball analyst as he was a baseball GM.

During his baseball-themed ESPN radio show, Phillips made the prediction Glavine's high strikeout rates now would come back to haunt him at the end of the season by bringing on some sort of pitching injury. Phillips then proposed to Glavine that Glavine try to throw his pitches so as to make more contact with the hitters' bats. After I finished banging my head against the wall and subsequently bandaging the wound that was a result of said head banging, I sat down and tried to wrap my head around the utter inanity of Phillips's idea. It took me a while, but I finally did it.

There are three parts of a baseball game that a pitcher has maximum control over: walk rate, strikeout rate, and home run rate. Noticeably absent from this list is balls batted in play (home runs are not technically in play) because there is no way for the pitcher to control where the ball goes, how hard it will be hit, or whether or not his defense will be able to cleanly field the ball and get a put-out. So what Phillips wants Glavine to do is to relinquish control over one of the only things he actually has control over. The worst part about it is he thinks that will help Glavine. Even a pitcher who gives up a considerable percentage of groundballs in comparison to flyballs really has no control over where a ball goes once it makes contact with a player's bat. He cannot make his pitch make control with a bat and then wave his hand and with a simple abracadabra say, "Ball, go to the second basemen who will throw you to the first baseman for an out."

If, in fact, Glavine's strikeout rate goes down, it will not be because of any concerted decision Glavine made. Most likely it will be Glavine's strikeout rate per nine innings regressing to the mean. And when that happens, look for Glavine to have less success than he is having right now.