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Just The Sports: 2006-06-11

Just The Sports

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Afflalo Is Not Totally Delusional After All

Nothing pleases me more than when a college basketball player makes the right decision in deciding whether or not to declare early for and stay in the NBA Draft. In this case, I am talking about Arron Afflalo. When Afflalo first declared for the draft, I sat him down and carefull explained to him that the point of declaring early for the draft was to leave college when your draft stock could not get any higher.

Obviously, someone else, who Afflalo would probably actually listen to, introduced him to a pesky little item called reality and informed him he was going to be picked no higher than in the second round. Therefore, he has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will go back to UCLA for at least one more year.

Now let Afflalo's decision be an example to all other undersized shooting guards who do not have great athleticism on when to (after you dominate your position for a year) and when to not (coming off a horrific performance in a big game, playing for a defensively minded team while not being a prolific scorer, and exhibiting little if any ability to play the point guard position) declare for the NBA draft.

US Scenarios for Advancing

With Ghana pulling off a major upset against the Czech Republic and the US facing Italy this afternoon, here are the scenarios under which the US can still advance.

Scenario 1:
US win against Italy.
US beat Ghana.
Italy beat Czech Republic.

Scenario 2:
US tie against Italy.
US beat Ghana.
Italy beat Czech Republic.

Scenario 3:
US tie against Italy.
US beat Ghana.
Italy tie with Czech Republic.
US have higher goal differential than the Czech Republic.

Scenario 4:
US tie Italy.
US defeat Ghana.
Czech Republic defeat Italy.
US have higher goal differential than Italy.

Scenario 5:
US win against Italy.
US tie with Ghana.
Italy beat Czech Republic.
US have higher goal differential than Ghana.

Scenario 6:
US win against Italy.
US tie with Ghana.
Czech Republic win against Italy.
US have higher goal differential than Ghana.

Scenario 7:
US beat Italy.
US tie with Ghana.
Italy tie with Czech Republic.
US have one of the two highest goal differentials.

Scenario 8:
US lose to Italy.
US beat Ghana.
Italy beat Czech Republic.
US have the highest goal differential between themselves, Czech Republic, and Ghana.

There may be other scenarios, but these are the only ones I can think of right now.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ian O'Connor Beats A Dead Horse

And I help him. The headline for O'Connor's article is, "Big Ben lucky he can learn from this," but to that I say, Roethlisberger is even luckier if he doesn't have to read this article.

He wasn't just a football hero, you see. He was a lunchpail guy in a lunchpail town, a big-boned kid who had a big-caloried sandwich named after him.

If someone can actually be a lunchpail guy with a base salary of $655,000, then I guess that, yes, Roethlisberger could be called a lunchpail guy. Just a lunchpail guy who can afford to put filet mignon or lobster in his lunchpail on a regular basis.

Roethlisberger played Terry Bradshaw's position, and played it extremely well.

He also played Kordell Stewart's position, Neil O'Donnell's position, Mike Tomczak's position, and Bubby Brister's position. So what exactly were you going for when you wrote that sentence?

He would be the youngest quarterback ever to win the Super Bowl, and he would make a season-saving tackle against the Colts that only a precious few players in the league would've made.

Hyperbole alert. The NFL is full of elite athletes: fat offensive linemen who are surprisingly nimble on their feet, running backs and wide receivers who can change direction without losing speed, defensive backs who are even faster than the wide receivers, linebackers who are able to shed blockers and then make tackles, and defensive ends who are able to blow by tackles and get to the quarterback in mere seconds. And you want me to believe that Ben Roethlisberger, a quarterback, is one of a precious few players who could have made the tackle on Nick Harper?

Let's say that by precious few, O'Connor meant fifty NFL players could have made that tackle. Watch the tackle for yourself and see if you think Roethlisberger did anything spectacular that only fifty other NFL players could have done.

Some of the credit has to go to the Pittsburgh lineman who got in Nick Harper's way as soon as Harper picked up the fumble and forced him to the inside. The rest of the credit has to go to Harper himself who foolishly cut back inside to where Roethlisberger was waiting for him instead of running along the sidelines.

Why would he ever suspect that he would be propelled into the air by a car driven by a 62-year-old woman, and that he would land head-first into the worst day of his once-charmed life?

The worst day of his life, huh? Worse than, say, this...?

His mother was only 34 when she perished in a car crash while driving to her ex-husband's home to pick up her eight-year-old Ben.

You're right. Losing a couple of teeth and having to go through a seven-hour surgery is probably worse than losing a parent.

Roethisberger's battered sense of invincibility will never fully heal.

If I were Roethlisberger, I would feel even more invincible. It is not every day a person headbutts, sans helmet, a car's windshield and manages to sustain no worse injuries than Roethlisberger suffered.

Roethlisberger would've never lined up against Ray Lewis without wearing a helmet, but the streets of Pittsburgh were supposed to be more forgiving than any given Sunday inside the AFC North.

He wouldn't be allowed to since a player has to keep his helmet on at all times while on the field or incur a 15-yard penalty.

Someday, somehow, Big Ben will be back behind center as a lunchpail hero in a lunchpail town.

Somehow? You can't really be serious. We all know how Roethlisberger is going to be back under center. He will wait until he has healed from surgery, then he will put on his uniform, and stand behind the center.

Don't act like his recovery will involve some sort of voodoo or African witch doctor or shaman. People have come back from far worse than a few broken facial bones to play professional football again.

As an addendum, everyone is harping on Roethlisberger's idiotic decision to not wear a helmet while riding the fastest production motorcycle in the world, and rightly so, but the real question is why the hell a 62-year-old woman is allowed to drive on public streets.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Who Should Give Up Switch-Hitting?

In theory, switch hitting makes a player immune to the handedness of pitchers so a manager will get no distinct advantage out of bringing in a specialty reliever from the bullpen in an attempt to increase the percentages of the reliever recording an out. If a left-handed reliever comes into the game, then the hitter can bat from the right-handed batter's box or vice versa. The same holds true for switch hitters versus opposing starting pitchers. A left-handed switch hitter need not have been taken out of the lineup when facing vintage Randy Johnson. That being side, switch hitting is only effective when a hitter performs equally well or close to it from both sides of the plate.

Understandably, there is an element of comfort involved in always looking at a right-handed pitcher from the same angle, but even comfort, at some point, is trumped by a large drop-off in production. And that thresshold comes when there is a 10% or greater difference between the OPS in one batter's box versus what the OPS is in the other.

After looking at the list of active switch hitters, I weeded out the ones who had not accumulated, since 2002 up to however many at-bats they have had this season, at least 500 at-bats as a right-handed better and 500 at-bats as a left-handed batter. When that was completed, I looked at their splits over the aforementioned time span and then took the percent difference between their higher OPS and their lower one. These are the hitters with whom switch hitting does not agree.

Lance Berkman
As LHB: .424 OBP/.592 SLG/1.016 OPS in 1,789 at-bats
As RHB: .392 OBP/.425 SLG/.818 OPS in 543 at-bats

Lance Berkman's inclusion on this late is certainly no indictment on his talent. His career line of .302 BA/.414 OBP/.560 SLG is impressive any way you look at it and he is one of the elite players in MLB right now. However, an interesting question to ask is how good those numbers would be if he did not consider himself a switch-hitter and stuck only to the left-handed batter's box. They probably would not be any worse.

The most glaring difference between these two splits is with what little power Berkman hits with from the right side. His OBP is similar and so is his BA, but for a power hitter like Berkman to only slug .425 from the right side is embarrassing. The only thing more embarrassing is that he continues to bat right-handed when doing so makes him 80% of the hitter he is from the left side of the plate.

Luis Castillo
As LHB: .369 OBP/.326 SLG/.694 OPS in 1,761 at-bats
As RHB: .389 OBP/.483 SLG/.872 OPS in 656 at-bats

Castillo, like Berkman, has a 20% decrease in production, but unlike Berkman, Castillo hits better from the right side of the plate than he does from the left side. The problem is he is not a stellar hitter from either side.

As a leadoff hitter, Castillo's main job is to get on base, which he does well from each side of the plate. In the right-handed batter's box, at least he couples that with a .483 SLG. One cannot say the same thing about his life as a lefty batter. It is not simple feat for a player to have a slugging percentage lower than his on-base percentage, but Castillo has found a way to do it.

The Minnesota Twins would be well-advised to build an invisible dog electric fence around the lefty's batter's box, attach a collar around Castillo's neck, and shock him until he learns he is no longer allowed to bat left-handed.

Brian Roberts
As LHB: .375 OBP/.437 SLG/.812 OPS in 1,369 at-bats
As RHB: .310 OBP/.350 SLG/.660 OPS in 586 at-bats

Brian Roberts burst on the national scene last year when he posted splits of .459 OBP/.726 SLG/1.185 OPS, .440 OBP/.569 SLG/1.009 OPS, and .407 OBP/.534 SLG/.942 OPS over the first three months of the season. He cooled off during the course of the year, but still finished up the season with a very respectable line for a lead-off hitter of .387 OBP/.515 SLG/.903 OPS.

Now he is notorious for another reason, namely being a poor switch hitter. With a 19% drop-off in OPS, there is really very little reason for him to continue hitting from the right side of the plate. Not only does Roberts' OPS suffer when he bats righty, but his batting average also takes a precipitous drop from .305 BA to .237, a decrease of .68 points.

The fact that Roberts is just an average defensive second basemen makes the disparity between the sides of the plate even greater. A player whose offensive ability is his most important contribution to the team should not continue to hurt the team by batting so poorly when facing a particular handed pitcher.

Bobby Kielty
As LHB: .345 OBP/.362 SLG/.708 OPS in 875 at-bats
As RHB: .380 OBP/.487 SLG/.867 OPS in 534 at-bats

Bobby Kielty has the most equal split between how many at-bats he has had from each side of the plate, but he also has one of the more unequal OPS splits since he is 18% better, in terms of OPS, from the right side than he is from the left.

As is the case with most switch-hitters who do not hit similarly from both sides of the plate, Kielty has a wide power imbalance. Not only does he have a slugging percentage .125 points higher from the right side, his isolated power difference (slugging percentage minus batting average), a better indicator of how much true power a player has, is a hefty .71.

Perhaps his blinding red hair keeps the Oakland A's and himself from realizing right-handed at-bats are probably the way to go for him.

Carl Everett
As LHB: .343 OBP/.468 SLG/.811 OPS in 1,400 at-bats
As RHB: .304 OBP/.381 SLG/.686 OPS in 493 at-bats

Carl Everett may not believe in dinosaurs, but he should believe that his 15% disparity in OPS is an indicator that switch-hitting is hurting him more than it is helping.

Or since OPS is not found in the Bible, does that mean it doesn't exist?

Although Everett is 7 at-bats shy of the 500 at-bat requisite mark, he could hit seven straight homers from the right side and still not bring his OPS percent difference below 10%.

Mark Bellhorn
As LHB: .357 OBP/.383 SLG/.739 OPS in 1,124 at-bats
As RHB: .357 OBP/.509 SLG/.866 OPS in 501 at-bats

There was probably a time when Mark Bellborn thought switch-hitting was a good idea and that he was going to ride it to the major leagues. If so, that day is over, and he should look at the 15% drop-off in OPS and realize it for himself. Since he probably will ignore his split, he will spend the rest of his career in a batter's box where his isolated power is .99 points lower than it is from the right side.

Would have be an above average hitter if he concentrated on one side of the plate? We will probably never find out.

Jason Varitek
As LHB: .348 OBP/.438 SLG/.787 OPS in 1,453 at-bats
As RHB: .384 OBP/.528 SLG/.912 OPS in 572 at-bats

Jason Varitek, captain of the Boston Red Sox, may be a surprise addition to this list, but there the numbers do not lie, and they say there is a 14% drop off in OPS. As captain, one can surmise it is Varitek's duty to do all he can to help out his team. Well, one thing he could do to help out the Sox would be to focus solely on his right-handed hitting and see if his numbers improve.

Otherwise, he will just continue to tease the Red Sox Nation with his displays of power as a right-handed batter.

Carlos Guillen
As LHB: .375 OBP/.463 SLG/.838 OPS in 1,377 at-bats
As RHB: .318 OBP/.415 SLG/.733 OPS in 559 at-bats

Carlos Guillen has played for two teams over the past five seasons, but one thing he brought to Detroit from Seattle is his inability to match his left-handed production on the right-handed side of the plate. While the gap between his two OPS's is not as glaring as some of the others on this late, there is no denying the 12% decrease.

There is no huge discrepancy in any one category of Guillen's splits, but the accumulation is enough to warrant him putting his switch-hitting career on hold indefinitely.

Ray Durham
As LHB: .357 OBP/.434 SLG/.791 OPS in 1,582 at-bats
As RHB: .386 OBP/.493 SLG/.879 OPS in 515 at-bats

Ray Durham barely made this list, coming in at a 10% differential, but working under the logic that what he did over the past 2,097 at-bats is probably indicative of his split for his career, maybe his career numbers would be higher than they are.

It is probably too late to convince him to stop his switch-hitting now; maybe someone should have told him to stop when he first began.

Warning Watch

Orlando Hudson
As LHB: .339 OBP/.433 SLG/.772 OPS in 1,377 at-bats
As RHB: .287 OBP/.346 SLG/.633 OPS in 492 at-bats
% Diff. 18%

D'Angelo Jimenez
As LHB: .350 OBP/.402 SLG/.753 OPS in 1,225 at-bats
As RHB: .337 OBP/.327 SLG/.664 OPS in 490 at-bats

See Scoop Jackson Misspell Words

Since I was in a masochistic mood, I decided to take a gander at the transcript of Scoop Jackson's chat and discover the idiocy that I knew was awaiting me. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.

Scoop Jackson: what up, sorry for the delay. anyway... Mike you rae [sic] right I forgot that it had beeen [sic] a minute for Rile's [sic], [sic] The same way I forgot about the 80 years between when Hubie coached when [sic] he came back to Memephis [sic]. But i still think Pat's exprience has to stand for something. Even though he's not showing it in the series.

I am continually amazed that someone who gets paid to write words can massacre simple grammatical rules with such cavalier disregard. I don't care if it is a chat room; there is a grammatical and semantical standard involved in typing up responses to questions you get paid to answer.

Pat Riley's experience stands for something, but not enough to help him during the series. Great analysis, Scoop.

Before I copy and paste these next two questions and answers, keep in mind that Scoop answered these questions successively. In no way am I taking them out of context.

Vahe (LA): Who would you rather sign on your team, Wade or Dirk?

Scoop Jackson: right now Dirk is looking real attractive. But to me, DWade is still that dude. I'd still sign him before any other player in the L right now.

Roger, LA: Shaq/Kobe vs Shaq/Wade, your pick?

Scoop Jackson: Still KB/Shaq. no question. Shaq was sic back then, never would have seen him average under 20/10 and I still need to see Dwade have some - not one - big games in the Finals. KB has a resume of big games in June.

So Dwyane Wade would be the first player you'd sign, but you would pick Kobe and Shaq over Wade and Shaq with Shaq being the constant and Kobe and Wade being the independent variables?

Is this some sort of game you play where you try to fit as many contradictions as you can in one sentence?

Rick H. (Yakima): Who's your top 5 draft picks?

Scoop Jackson: tyrus, lamarcus, morrison, shannon brown and one of the top 5 picks will be traded for a big name player.

Scoop, the question was to name your top five draft picks and you only listed four. Although you may think one of the top five picks will be traded away, the pick still has to be made by someone and therefore, you are still allowed to predict who will be picked.

You didn't even have to be right. All you had to do was list 5 players and you couldn't even do that. Amazing.

Ivan / Anaheim: Dirk is unstoppable! nuff said...

Scoop Jackson: damn, that was personal.


Monday, June 12, 2006

And Starring Peter King As "The Idiot"

You know what time it is.

I've always thought that one of the few things baseball had over football was its 162-game schedule.

I sincerely hope this is not a subtle hint for the NFL to increase the number of games it has in its schedule. If that is the point of this sentence, Peter, then you are becoming more of an idiot every day.

A shortened schedule is one of the things football has over baseball because it makes every football game at least ten times more important than any regular-season baseball game. More importance equals more television viewers which equals more money for the NFL.

3) Did you know it costs $77 to fill the tank of the land-yacht Ford Expedition?

No, I did not nor do I really give a shit. Write about football, Peter. Your pen name is the Monday Morning Quarterback, not the Monday Morning Philosopher or the Monday Morning Leadoff Hitter or the Monday Morning Gas Pricer.

Why can't you take a similar summer trip in the NFL?

Here's why. You can't take a similar summer trip in the NFL because you are not in the midst of an NFL season like you are when you take a summer trip around MLB parks. Instead, in the NFL summer, you have training camps where the rosters have not yet been finalized, no preseason games have been played, and some of the game's stars are not even practicing.

You can.

No, you can't, but go ahead and try.

I think the key to this team is not whether McNabb can find Mr. Right at wide receiver but whether he can rely on Brian Westbrook to stay healthy for four months. And get a good look at Ryan Moats, whom Andy Reid drafted in 2005 to be the next Westbrook.

So what you're saying here is, it doesn't really matter whether Westbrook stays healthy because the Eagles have a running back who can produce in the same way as Westbrook, right?

You might want to have a videocam handy for John Madden's address. It might be memorable.

Then again, it is more likely to be the sort of rambling senility everyone has come to expect from the mouth of John Madden.

1. I think Daunte Culpepper looks very much like he'll be ready for opening day. At least he looked like that at Miami minicamp over the weekend.

You inferred that from Culpepper throwing the ball in gym shorts with no real rush and no one trying to take his head off while he has to make reads and deliver the ball in the right place? Ooooooookay.

c. Come back, Albert Pujols. I am begging.

He's injured, Peter. He didn't retire. Get off your knees, take your head from between Pujols' legs, and stop begging. You look ridiculous down there.

e. Happy Father's Day to all. Especially you, Tony Dungy. Have a good week.

Yeah, Tony, I really hope you enjoy your first Father's Day since your son, James, committed suicide. I'm sure it will be a blast.