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Just The Sports: 2006-06-04

Just The Sports

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Parity in Women's College Basketball

Forgive me for writing this out of season, but this is a question I have been asking myself for some time. Since there is evidence of increasing parity in the men's college basketball tournament, I wondered if the same was true for the women's college game, which is considerably younger than its male counterpart. For the record, my definition of parity is less concerned with lower seeds upsetting higher seeds and moving deep into the tournament than simply seeing if the margin of victory between the seeds has decreased.

To begin with, I looked exclusively at the NCAA women's tournament scores from 1994-2006. The reason I started with 1994 is because that was the first year the tournament field consisted of 64 teams, and there should have been a wider disparity in talent between the top seeds and the bottom ones. Also, this thirteen-year span represented the longest period the women's has kept the same format.

In order to determine if there was increasing parity, I took the margin of victory for the higher seeds for all the first round games from 1994-2006 and averaged them together, starting with the 1 vs. 16 match-up, moving onto the 2 vs. 15 match-up, and so on until the 8 vs. 9 games. Whenever there was an upset-a lower seed defeating a higher seed-I counted that as a negative margin of victory. After I averaged all the margins of victory, I then split the data into two parts (1994-2000 & 2001-2006). Here are the results.

Average Margin of Victory1 vs. 162 vs. 153 vs. 144 vs. 13 5 vs. 126 vs. 117 vs. 108 vs. 9

As the data show, while some lower seeds have managed greater success against the higher seeds, there is no consistent trend to support the hypothesis that there is a lower disparity level between the top teams in the women's tournament and the bottom teams, at least in the first round. Actually, overall, the average difference of margin of victory between the two time frames is 0.0, meaning nothing has changed over the past thirteen years of the 64-team women's tournament field.

However, another aspect of parity I wanted to look at was whether lower-seeded mid-majors have closed the gap against the higher-seeded major programs in the nation. My definition of a mid-major team, which I have applied retroactively, is taken from Even though writes exclusively about men's college basketball, it stands to reason that if a men's program is a mid-major, then its women's counterpart will also be a mid-major.

The way I calculated the margin of victory was the same as when I was looking only at lower seeds vs. top seeds, with the exceptions that if a game does not include a mid-major program I do not count it and if the mid-major holds the higher seed, I also do not count that game because if the team does have a higher seed, they are already expected to win so when they do there is nothing to conclude from their victory except that the seeding committee was correct. Here are those results.

Average Margin of Victory1 vs. 162 vs. 153 vs. 144 vs. 13

The reason I am limited to these four match-ups is because there were simply not enough games for the other seed pairings to allow me to make any conclusions. Similarly to the other look at parity, there is no evidence of a consistent trend of the lowest-seeded mid-majors doing anything to increase the parity between themselves and the highest-seeded majors. The average difference being 0.6 also speaks to the fact that there has been no closing of the talent gap between the first seven years of the 64-team women's tournament field and the latter six.

Perhaps there will be increasing parity in the women's NCAA tournament in the future, but right now there is none to speak of.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Perhaps Selig Should Have Hung Up

After reading Terence Moore's June 7 article where he comes up with a ridiculous idea, the only thing I found more surprising than the fact he is still allowed to work for and get paid by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution is knowing that the commissioner of Major League Baseball actually answers his phone calls and talks to him for an extended period of time. Of course, this could just be a reflection of Bud Selig jumping at any opportunity to discuss a topic unrelated to steroids. So let's see what happens with an awful sports writer asks the commissioner a few questions.

My call to Bud Selig actually was about something else involving Hank Aaron, but when you have the baseball commissioner on the other end of the phone from his office in Milwaukee, well, you swing for the fences. So I dug in deep for several more questions.

I would caution Terence Moore against proclaiming that he will be digging in deeper for several more questions because it implies that his questions will be some of his best. Doing that just makes the questions he asks seem worse.

In other words, do you agree with me that Aaron should have a vibrant and visible role with the new Braves’ ownership?

You really dug in deep for that question, Terence.

And no, I do not think he should. Oh, what's that? You weren't asking me? Fine, let's hear Bud's answer.

“Absolutely,” said Selig, before adding emphatically, “Absolutely. There’s no question about it. I will encourage it, and it should happen.”

No, Bud, it should not happen. And what exactly does "vibrant and visible role" actually mean? Is it another way of saying Aaron will be trotted out for a few more autographing sessions or ribbon cutting ceremonies or other photographic opportunities? I know what Moore's proposed role will not entail: Aaron actually having any real power in the Braves organization.

“You know, Hank went to Washington with me last September during the steroid thing, and he was just tremendous,” said Selig, recalling Aaron’s testimony on Capitol Hill. “That was a pivotal moment in baseball, when we wound up with the toughest drug program in American sports, and he was so helpful.

And I'm sure there's a smartest kid with Down's Syndrome, too, but is that really saying a lot?

Which brings us to the primary reason why I called the commissioner. That slugger for the San Francisco Giants with his artificially inflated arms, legs and everything else just topped Babe Ruth’s 714, and he is easing his way toward Aaron’s 755. As a result, baseball is moving closer to a brutal scenario that would entail the unpopular Barry Bonds catching and passing the popular Henry Aaron.

My solution: Baseball should make Aaron even more popular.

There is absolutely no way to make Hank Aaron more popular than he is right now, with everyone rooting against Barry Bonds to break Aaron's career home-run record. In fact, the only time historical players see a rise in their popularity is when an active player is about to break one of their records. Other times these great players are mentioned only in passing.

Take Ted Williams, for example. Without Ichiro or Nomar or Todd Helton threatening to hit .400 for the season anymore, his name is barely mentioned.

Or Joe Dimaggio. Since Jimmy Rollins failed to come that close to Dimaggio's 56-game hitting streak, suddenly he is no longer worth talking about.

You have an award every year for the best pitcher in each league, and it is named after Cy Young, a former player. You have an award every year for the top rookie in each league, and it is named after Jackie Robinson, a former player. You also have an award every year for the most valuable player in each league, and it is named after Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a former commissioner.

If naming the MVP trophy after Hank Aaron is your great plan to increase his popularity, then you are dumber than I thought. Never mind that there is already a Hank Aaron Award (given out since 1999 to the best "overall" hitter in each league), but Aaron's place in baseball lore is already firmly entrenched. Naming the MVP trophy after him will not cause more people to know about him.

Oh, and another thing, if you are going to name the MVP trophy after someone, you might want to name it after someone who actually won the MVP more than once. Why not rename the Cy Young award after Jim Lonborg? He won the Cy Young as many times as Hank Aaron was named MVP.

Francoeur Angry About Getting On Base

After being hit by a Russ Ortiz pitch in the second inning of Wednesday's game, Francoeur had to be restrained by Bobby Cox and had a few choice words for the Washington Nationals pitcher as he walked to first base.

One can only surmise that the vitriol Francoeur spewed Ortiz's way was the direct result of his abhorrence of getting on base by any other means than a hit, as evidenced by there only being a difference of .018 points between his OBP and his BA, and not the actual pain incurred from getting hit by a pitch.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Misusing the Closer

In yesterday's Yankees-Red Sox game, with the Yankees holding on to a slim 2-1 lead in the top of the 8th inning and Boston's 2-3-4 hitters coming up to the plate, does Joe Torre signal for Mariano Rivera to come out of the bullpen to pitch to Boston's best hitters? No, of course not. Instead, he calls on Kyle Farnsworth. Why exactly would he bring in the reliever he trusts second-most, according to leverage, in a situation that screams to be handled by the best reliever on the team? Why indeed?

For the season, Rivera has 1.412 WXRL (Wins Above Replacement Level) to Farnsworth's .384. While, thankfully, Rivera does have a higher leverage than his set-up man, there is still not reason to pitch him exclusively in the ninth, especially when his talents would be better served than waiting around in the ninth to face 6-7-8 batters.

While Farnsworth was able to retire the three batters in order, the inning was not without drama. The third batter he faced, Manny Ramirez hit a home run ball that was snatched back into play by left fielder, Melky Cabrera. Had Cabrera not caught the ball, Farnsworth would have been blamed for blowing the lead, which probably would have led to him being cascaded by boos from the Bronx faithful. Yet, the onus of the blown lead would have been squarely on the shoulders of Joe Torre for making a poor managing decision.

In Torre's defense, he is not the only manager to misappropriate his bullpen assets. Managers are still so firmly entrenched in the thinking that a team's best reliever always has to pitch in a save situation that they leave themselves unable to use any sort of creativity with their bullpen. Also, using relievers like everyone else uses them allows the managers to avoid harsh criticism from the media who hate change as much as anyone, probably because it forces them to do actual research.

Wait Till The Nationals Have A New GM

Each season, as the trading deadline approaches, the thirty-two teams that comprise Major League Baseball must all take a long, hard look at themselves and ask if they have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs. If so, should they be looking for that extra piece to the puzzle which may push them over the edge and into a World Series berth? If not, should they declare the season a wash and start trading away players with cumbersome contracts and dwindling skills and hope to rebuild anew the following season by stockpiling prospects?

To aid the Washington Nationals, Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell was kind enough to answer the question for them and point them in the direction he thinks they should go. While the Nationals are probably ecstatic to be receiving advice from a sports writer, the quality of the advice and his overall baseball knowledge is up for debate.

On July 27, four days before the trade deadline, the Nationals will be at .500 and on the edges of the NL wild-card race.

Wait a minute, how do you know that? Thomas Boswell, are you a psychic? Can you also predict how many inane statements you are going to make in this article? Several, you say? Wonderful.

Cut out this prediction so you can send it to me baked in a crow pie. A team that went 30-49 after last July 5th, then was abysmal in spring training and started this season 13-27, is about to inspire talk of a winning year. RFK will bounce again soon.

Two other teams who were abysmal in spring training were the Boston Red Sox (9-20) and the Chicago White Sox (10-19).

And you want to know two teams who did really awesome in spring training? That's right, the Florida Marlins (19-9) and the Los Angeles Angels (20-11).

Now, let's take a quick look at their regular season records up to this point.

Boston Red Sox: 33-23
Chicago White Sox: 35-22
Florida Marlins: 20-36
Los Angeles Angels: 26-32

Next time you are trying to make an argument for how bad a team is, you might want to leave out the team's spring training record, since spring training rosters are not really indicative of regular season ones.

Last year, the Nats had an insanely difficult schedule, playing 104 games against winning teams. If an 81-81 record can be remarkable, theirs was.

Actually, Thomas, you may have a point here. The Nationals did outperform their Pythagenport record by four games, but I would not exactly call that remarkable, as teams do better than their Pythagenport record all the time. I would call it good, instead.

Last year's Nats were a perfect example with a season progression of 23-18, 1-7, 26-6, 9-24, 18-16 and 4-10. Where's the .500 team in that statistical mess?

Funny you should ask. Here's the answer to your rhetorical question. When you add all the wins together and all the losses together and they come out to be the same number, then voila, you have found your .500 team.

What's going to keep the Nats from playing 25-19 ball to get to .500? After all, by next week the Nats will have their best pitcher and best hitter of last season, John Patterson and Jose Guillen, back from the disabled list.

Actually, their best hitter from last season was Nick Johnson, who in 64 less plate appearances still posted a higher VORP than Jose Guillen (34.1 to 26.6). Johnson also posted a higher OPS+ (139 to 118), a higher MLVr (.258 to .140), and a higher RC/27 (6.69 to 5.46).

But John Patterson was their best pitcher and one out of two isn't that bad.

What if, after starting the year losing almost every one-run game, they simply evened the odds and won most of them for a while?

You mean like the reverse of what they did last year when they went an astounding 24-10 in one-run games before the All-Star Break, but only 6-21 after it, finishing the season with a record of 30-31 in one-run games? Yeah, it could happen.

What if, instead of watching walk-off homers in Atlanta and Cincinnati, they returned the sudden-death favors in RFK?

I don't know about that. Walk-off homers are improbable in their own right, but when coupled with the fact that while Turner Field is a neutral park and the Great American Ballpark is a slight pitcher's park, RFK Stadium is a severe pitcher's park, making the feat even more improbable for the Washington Nationals.

In a few weeks, the Nats may still be stuck in the doldrums, weak schedule or not. But if they rally, if they make their run at .500 or even above it, a crucial juncture will arrive for Washington's new team, its executives and its fans.

This is how hard: Say the words: "Trade 'em all. Get prospects. Lose 100 games in '07 and get better draft picks." It hurts, doesn't it? You don't even want to say it (and I don't want to type it).

Before you start suggesting that the Nationals trade away all their veterans for prospects, perhaps you should remember that the current GM (for a couple more weeks at least) of the Washington Nationals is drunk driving extraordinaire Jim Bowden. A closer look at Bowden's track record would show you that it might be prudent to save the "trade everyone away" talk until after he is fired, lest he follow your advice and conduct the trades now.

As the GM for the Cincinnati Reds GM, he was awful, and as the Nationals GM, Bowden has been no better. Throughout his tenures as GM, he has shown a marked disregard for the effects a home ball park has on a hitter's statistics, thrice trading for Colorado Rockies only to see their offensive production wane after they left the thin air of Coors Field. Bowden has also earned the nickname "Trader Jim" because he seemingly trades players because he has the ability to, which is another reason not to advocate him making more trades. True, he has made some good transactions, but even the worst GMs can get lucky now and again.

Last year was a prime example of why Bowden should not be allowed to conduct trades without a grown-up, or at least someone sober, around. Last year, with the Nationals slipping out of first place in the NL East after the All-Star Break, Bowden did everything he could to make sure they would play themselves out of contention by trading away starting pitcher Tomo Ohka (9.9 VORP in 54.0 innings) and signing pitcher Ryan Drese (-1.4 VORP in 59.7 innings). If that was not bad enough, Bowden traded away two other pitchers because obviously pitching is not necessary for a team trying to win a pennant.

Maybe it will be best for the Nationals to trade away veterans for prospects, but to do so with Bowden as the GM would be committing an egregious error.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Sorry, Murray, But You're An Imbecile

I'm not sure why everyone gets down on Mike Mussina, but the bashing of Mike Mussina is completely without basis in fact. Even when Mussina does get compliments, they are of the back-handed sort like the one he got from Murray Chass.

IN his 16-year major league career, Mike Mussina has won 19 games twice, 18 games three times and 17 games twice. He has never won 20 games.

Winning 20 games is an overblown stat, much in the same way 100 RBI has too much emphasis put upon it. For pitchers, win-loss record really means very little for evaluating their success and trying to predict future performance. The reasons are very simple, and yet, sports journalists continue to disregard valuable statistical evidence.

To win a game, a pitcher has to rely on his offense to score runs and unless he plans on striking out all 27 batters he faces, he must also rely on his defense to help him prevent the opponent from scoring. Therefore, if either fails him, if his team cannot manage even a single run or his defense misplays 5 batted balls that turn into ten runs, the pitcher is saddled with a loss no matter how well he might have pitched.

Also, in this era of baseball which is so heavily reliant on the bullpen, very few complete games are being thrown, increasing the likelihood a pitcher will end up with a no-decision. There again, the pitcher can have an excellent outing and receive no "credit" for it in the eyes of cavemen sports journalists.

Pitchers seldom win Cy Young awards if they do not win 20 games.

Since I am too lazy to go all the way back to 1956 and look at the win-loss record for every single pitcher who won the award, I decided to only go back to 1991 and look at the past thirty CY Young Award recipients. Of those thirty, twelve did not win 20 games. For those handy with a calculator, that is 40%. I'm not sure what Murray Chass's defintion of seldom is, but mine sure as hell isn't 40% of the time.

In addition, the pitching win totals of many of the 1970s pitchers were inflated by the fact they regularly started 35-40 games, an unheard of total in this day of five-man rotations.

Mussina simply has not been a dominant pitcher and has too often been disappointing when his team could have used a dominant pitcher.

Mike Mussina has been disappointing? Okay, whatever you say, Mr. New York Times writer. Since wins are so important to you, Mussina has averaged 17 wins over his career, one more than Greg Maddux and the same number as Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Roger Clemens. Are you still disappointed in him?

His ERA+ ranks him 15th among active pitchers.

One more disappointing stat is Mussina's Stuff rating of 24, where the major league average is 10. Baseball Prospectus's stuff rating is a reflection of a pitcher's overall dominance. It seems to indicate Mussina has been pretty dominant in his career.

Last year, with Randy Johnson, the titular head of the staff, pitching inconsistently, the Yankees could have benefited had Mussina stepped up and said "follow me" or "climb on my back, boys."

The first suggestion is meaningless and the second suggestion just sounds like an invitation for a gangbang.

Mussina, however, won only 13 games, one of his lowest victory totals, and had a 4.41 earned run average, one of his highest E.R.A. marks.

Some other awful pitcher only won 13 games last year, too. Who was it? Oh yeah, that fraud, Roger Clemens.

Repeat after me: Wins alone do not tell you how good a pitcher is.

This Isn't Even Funny Anymore

No, really, it's not. No wonder the Hall of Fame is such a joke when you have voters like Peter King.

Ain't so. I'm a fan of no football team. You may be interested to know that I am going to rethink my position on Monk this year. I don't want to be so stuck in the mud on this issue that I close my mind to the possibility that I'm wrong and that Monk really does belong. So I'm going to sit down with Joe Gibbs when I see the Redskins this summer and try to soak in what the Monk side believes I am missing. A lot of people I respect tell me I'm dead wrong on Monk -- Len Shapiro, Mike Wilbon among them, plus quieter ones with close ties to the Hall. So I'll rethink my position and let you know what I come up with.

Congratulations, Peter. You have just flushed the last vestiges of your journalistic credibility, integrity, and acumen right down the toilet. You were picked as one of the 39 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of your supposed knowledge of the game, and you mean to tell me you are going to talk to the former head coach of an eligible player to decide if he should vote for his enshrinement or not. Does the phrase conflict of interest mean nothing to you? Do you really think the former head coach of a player is going to be unbiased in the matter? And more importantly, what can he possibly tell you that you don't already know? Actually, I can picture the scenario right now...

(Scene: Joe Gibbs seated at his desk with an Art Monk stat sheet in front of him, furiously erasing and scribbling in numbers. Phone buzzes.)

Assistant: Peter King is here to see you, Mr. Gibbs.

Joe Gibbs: Send him in.

(Joe Gibbs blows on the piece of paper and smooths out the crinkles. Enter Peter drinking Starbucks coffee or green tea or whatever the fuck it is he's drinking and writing about these days.)

Peter King: Hey, Joe.

JG: Hey, Peter, how's it going?

(They shake hands.)

PK: Joe, the reason I came over today was to talk about Art Monk. You know, I'm on the Hall of Fame voting committee and I wanted to hear from you, an objective observer of Monk's career, why I should vote for him.

JG: I thought you might drop by so I took the liberty of preparing this for you.

(Joe Gibbs slides the stat sheet over to Peter.)

PK: What is this?

JG: It's a list of Art's stats we "uncovered" recently.

(Peter looks over the stat sheet and glances up in disbelief.)

PK: These can't be right.

JG: I assure you. They are all accurate and correct.

PK: But this sheet says he had at least 100 receptions every season of his career.

JG: Yes.

PK: Even in 1995 when he only played 3 games for the Philadelphia Eagles?

JG: That Art Monk was truly a great player. Hall of Fame caliber, some would say.

PK: So if this is true, that means that Monk really had over 1,600 career receptions?

JG: Yes.

PK: That's more than-

JG: Jerry Rice. I know.

PK: Wow. I had no idea.

JG: Not many people do. It's a good thing you decided to come to talk me, otherwise you would never have known about the 700 career receptions that Art isn't getting credit for.

PK: Thanks a bunch, Coach. Now I definitely know how to vote.

(Exit Peter King. End Scene.)

NBA Finals Breakdown

Detroit (4) vs. Miami (2)

Before the season even began, many "experts" and fans alike had already decreed that the 2006 NBA Finals would be a repeat of the 2005 version, starring the team-oriented San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons. Instead, the 2006 Finals pits the Dallas Mavericks against the Miami Heat, two teams who finished second in their respective conferences' regular season standings, yet each dispatched the supposed "top team" during their playoff runs.

Now, not only does this series promise to be supremely exciting, but there are myriad storylines which even the most casual of NBA fans will want to follow. Some of these include: will Pat Riley go down as the most overtanned, leathery head coach to win an NBA title, will Shaq feel "vindicated" after being traded by Kobe Bryant to the Heat, how many hugs must be shrugged off and high-fives ignored before Mark Cuban learns paying his players does not make them his friends, and more importantly, how many times will Avery Johnson hit Josh Howard in the penis while frantically trying to make a substitution.

Still, the most important question will be who is going to win the series, and I have studied some numbers in order to answer it.

Each team has played seventeen playoff games, only 3.5 games short of a quarter of the NBA season. Therefore, the way they are playing now would provide a better indicator than any regular season stat the teams have. For that reason, all of the stats I use will be strictly from the postseason.

First, let's look at how efficiently each team plays, both offensively and defensively. Since teams usually play at different tempos, the best way to compare their efficiency is to pro-rate their possession to 100, thus putting them on a level playing field and eliminating the confounding variable that is tempo.

Dallas Mavericks Offense: 114 points per 100 possessions
Dallas Mavericks Defense: 108 points per 100 possessions

Miami Heat Offense: 109 points per 100 possessions
Miami Heat Defense: 103 points per 100 possessions

In terms of how much more efficient these teams have been than their opponents, the numbers are the same, as each team has is plus six. Although Dallas scores five more points than does Miami per 100 possessions, they also give up five more points.

Some may say if Dallas pushes the pace, there will be no way for the Heat to keep up, but there is no statistical evidence that Dallas has been pushing the ball any faster than the Heat. During the playoffs, Dallas has averaged one more possession on offense and one less possession on defense, which is as close to equal one can get without it being identical.

Since this really does not give us a clue as to who will win the series, let's look at how each team gets its points and how they also defend.

Dallas Jump Shot Offense: 49.8 points
Miami Jump Shot Defense: 44.9 points

Dallas Close Offense: 22.0 points
Miami Close Defense: 21.5 points

Dallas Dunk Offense: 5.4 points
Miami Dunk Defense: 4.8 points

Dallas Tip Offense: 1.8 points
Miami Tip Defense: 1.2 points

While Dallas's offense matches up well against Miami's defense, the biggest difference comes in the jump shot department. Miami's perimeter defense has been susceptible the whole year, and if there is any offense that can exploit this weakness, it is one led by Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry.

In the other aspects of its offense, Dallas should be able to score at the rate they have so far with no problem.

Miami Jump Shot Offense: 39.4 points
Dallas Jump Shot Defense: 40.8 points

Miami Close Offense: 26.3 points
Dallas Close Defense: 27.4 points

Miami Dunk Offense: 11.5 points
Dallas Dunk Defense: 6.9 points

Miami Tip Offense: 0.2 points
Dallas Tip Defense: 0.8 points

Not surprisingly, the Miami Heat has a decided advantage when it comes to scoring in the paint, most notably on dunks. Their interior scoring prowess is not just a result of having Shaq down low, but also comes off Dwyane Wade's drives through the lane which usually end with an alley-oop to Shaq or a monstrous dunk of his own.

One positive the Dallas Mavericks can take into this series is knowing that with their extremely deep bench, they have a number of players they can use to defend Shaq and hopefully contain him below his average. Whether or not they succeed remains to be seen.

Now, we must look at the net PER the teams get out of their five positions. Net PER is a measure of how much production a team is being given, by a player or an overall position.

Point Guard: Neither team's point guards have outplayed their opponents' point guards, but Miami has done a better job of being outplayed at this position. Advantage: Dallas (-0.5 to -4.6)

Shooting Guard: Mostly due to having Dwyane Wade on the roster, Miami has a decided edge at this position. Advantage: Miami (+8.8 to -1.7)

Small Forward: Maybe Miami shouldn't even play with a small forward. Just kidding. Sort of. Advantage: Dallas (+3.5 to -5.5)

Power Foward: Two words: Dirk Nowitzki. Advantage: Dallas (+14.8 to +1.2)

Center: Two more words: Shaquille O'Neal. Advantage: Miami (+12.1 to -5.2)

Overall Net PER: Miami trumps Dallas by a slim margin (+1.1).

Although Miami has a slight edge in overall net PER, Dallas does win the battle at three individual postions and it must be said that Dallas has put up its numbers against superior teams, beating two of the top four regular-season teams (San Antonio and Phoenix), making them slightly more impressive. In addition, the Heat have yet to face a team as deep and as malleable as the Dallas Mavericks. Also, did I mention Dallas has home-court advantage?

Prediction: Dallas wins in 7 games.

Stats courtesy of

Monday, June 05, 2006

Monday Morning Idiot

I am all out of Monday-related puns so let's get straight to it, shall we Mr. King? Great.

2. I think Ricky Williams might be rethinking his Canadian decision. His preseason debut with the Toronto Argonauts: four carries, seven yards.

Peter, it was preseason. Pre. Season. As in before the real season begins and his numbers really matter. Preseason only really matters for first-year starting quarterbacks or the players who are in danger of not making the team should they perform poorly. For established players the games are really unnecessary.

An example of how meaningless the preseason is in determining how well a player will perform during the regular season is Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, and Tom Brady all finished outside of the top 30 quarterbacks in preseason passing yards. I don't think that made them rethink their decision to play in the NFL.

Besides, where else could Ricky play himself back into the NFL? He couldn't do it in NFL Europe because of the whole suspension thing and the fact the season is over. The Arena Football League is a joke. The CFL is his only avenue back.

a. Another Red Sox-Yankees series. Four in five weeks. None for the following 10 weeks. I mean, what genius puts this schedule together?

What genius hired you? There are lots of questions without satisfactory answers.

f. I yawn at Michelle Wie-mania.

Yes, it is so boring when a 16-year-old female can compete with adult males in professional golf and has the chance to become the first woman to qualify for the men's U.S. Open. I think I will take a nap now after thinking about it.

Celizic Still An Idiot

Even though I haven't written about Celizic in a while, it is still good to know that his idiocy remains intact.

The bad news is baseball is losing what [Albert Pujol's injury] was shaping up as exactly the story it needed to get people’s minds off Barry Bonds and steroids.

If people really wanted to get Barry Bonds and steroids off their minds, they would treat him with a culture of indifference and not one of hate. There would no more articles related to Bonds, no more books written about him, no more live look-ins at his at-bats, no more nationally televised games with him in them, no more Chasing Ruth and Chasing Aaron updates, no more signs made about him, and no more booing from the fans.

Face, it Celizic. People do not want to get their minds off Bonds or steroids because it allows them to feel morally superior to him or any other player who took the 'roids.

Pujols is the anti-Bonds, quiet, humble and liked by his teammates and the media, his muscles apparently completely organic.

Thank God Pujols is quiet and doesn't have an opinion because we really hate athletes who have strong opinions. Boy, do we hate them.

And how exactly do you know Pujols isn't taking steroids? Because he said he wasn't? Because he hasn't tested positive for any? Because you hope he isn't so you can use him in your battle against the big bad Bonds? Because you want to do an exclusive interview with him in the near future? Give me a break.

As much as he meant to the Cardinals hopes of finally winning the World Series again, he meant more to baseball’s hopes of finally getting beyond the stench of steroids.

No, I actually think Pujols meant more to the Cardinals' hopes of winning the World Series, seeing as he is compensated for that purpose and will receive no salary bonus should he succeed in the latter.

But let’s face it, the home-run record isn’t what it used to be, not with long balls as cheap as they’ve been over the past eight years.

The record [Hack Wilson's 1930 season of 191 RBI] hasn’t had a lot of play, and it doesn’t have the mystic aura of any number that has Ruth’s name attached to it, but it is a phenomenal number set during what remains the most prolific offensive era the game has ever seen.

Wait a minute. So you're saying the home run record is cheapened by the fact home runs have become so common in this era, but the RBI record is still phenomenal despite coming in what you admit is the most prolific offensive era in baseball. Does that logic make sense to anyone? Anyone at all?

Pujols had 65 RBIs in 54 games, which is exactly one third of the season, meaning he was on pace for 195.

Why everyone insists on using games played as the basis for on-pace predictions is completely beyond me. Not every baseball game is the same for a hitter; there will be some games where a batter will get as many as five at-bats and others where he will get only two counted at-bats. Therefore, it is more accurate to predict how a player will end the season based on his at-bats, provided there is enough of a sample size to make it accurate.

Pujols has averaged 591 at-bats in his five seasons in the majors. Whether or not he sees that many again now seems unlikely, but if he was to continue on his RBI/at-bat ratio of .35, he would finish the season with 208 RBI in 591 at-bats.

If Pujols had done it [broken Wilson's RBI record], no one would have mourned the assault on Hack Wilson, who, by all accounts, drank his way through his career and never captured the public imagination, not even when he was playing.

I seem to recall another player who drank his way through his career. What was his name again? Oh yeah, that's right. Babe Ruth. Too bad Hack Wilson didn't eat hot dogs to excess, too. Maybe then the assault on his record would be mourned.

The Reds have managed to stay within three games of the division lead and can now see a reason to continue the chase.

With Pujols playing, the Reds had already conceded defeat and have only been going through the motions of playing good baseball.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Less Moore Is Better

For many sports writers, the temptation to dash off an emotionally resonant article while glossing over certain insignificant details like facts and supporting evidence has proven too great to resist. Such is the case with Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Terence Moore, who recently wrote an article headlined, "Chipper Not Appreciated Enough," where as the title suggest, Moore tried to prove that Larry Wayne "Chipper" Jones was underappreciated as a player. Who exactly is supposed to be underrating Jones as a baseball player is unclear in the article, most likely because there is no such person and Moore realized it the more he wrote.

However, this knowledge did not stop Moore from interviewing Chipper's choked-up parents to see if they could shed some light on the mystery of the culprit behind Chipper's non-existent underappreciation.

Larry and Lynne Jones nearly wept on Saturday at Turner Field after hearing my [Billy] Williams analogy. They are the parents of baseball’s most unappreciated player of consistent goodness along the way to ultimate greatness. When I visited their suite and asked them whether they thought their son would reach the Hall of Fame someday, the mother closed her eyes tightly before crossing her fingers.

See what I mean about emotionally resonant over concrete evidence? A common misconception among journalism is that making an interview subject cry means the journalist has done an award-worthy job. Wrong. The real responsibility for a journalist is to present information in a creative, interesting format. It is not to coax the interviewee into incoherent, tear-filled mumblings.

The father tried to speak, but a lump in his throat kept getting in the way. “It’s hard to believe that my son, from Pierson, Fla., with one caution light and a convenience store, would even be considered for the Hall of Fame,” said Larry Jones, Chipper’s high school coach, talking and blinking. “Just to make it here [pointing toward the field, where Chipper stood at third base for the Braves] for that matter, but to be considered for the Hall of Fame, it’s unbelievable. Unbelievable.”

Even though Chipper's father cannot tell us just who is the source of Moore's witchhunt, Moore does not let that throw him off the scent of idiocy.

Actually, it’s believable. You just haven’t been paying attention. Few have, and given his swagger of a gunslinger preparing for high noon in the Old West, Jones couldn’t care less what you think — especially if you don’t have a tomahawk across your chest.

Looking at a player's All-Star appearances and how he fared in the MVP voting is probably the best way to determine how appreciated he is by the public, since the voting for these honors is done by fans and sports writers, respectively. And in both categories, Chipper has acquitted himself very well.

He has had five All-Star appearances in his eleven full Major League seasons, which is not bad for a poor defensive fielder playing a defense-intensive position. Also, Chipper has placed in the top 11 of MVP voting seven times. Perhaps he is getting more credit than Moore would like to believe, although thinking you are the only one who realizes something is fun.

His selflessness caused him to agree to the second-worst move in the history of Georgia sports when he spent those 2 1/2 years in left field.

Actually, wherever Chipper Jones has played, be it third base, shortstop, or left field, he has proven himself to be a below average fielder. The Braves knew this, and so they moved Chipper to a less demanding defensive position, in the hopes he would hurt the team less in the field. Also, Chipper and the Braves had to make way for Vinny Castilla, who was a better defensive third basemen. Unfortunately for the Braves, Castilla performed below average during his stint in the Braves infield.

Chipper, meanwhile, performed better defensively in left field than he ever did at third base, until a hamstring injury sent him back to third. The three years Chipper spent quality time in the outfield just happens to be the three years where he posted his best Fielding Runs Above Average (-21 FRAA). In no other three year span has Chipper been better defensively.

Still, whether or not Chipper Jones is appreciated enough to garner votes on 75% of Hall of Fame cast ballots remains to be seen, but's HOF Monitor has him listed as a likely Hall of Famer.

So is Chipper Jones really underappreciated? Of course not.

Was Terence Moore up against it and looking to type up anything that resembled a modicum of effort? Yes.