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Just The Sports: 2006-07-02

Just The Sports

Saturday, July 08, 2006

What Are You Doing?!!!!!

During tonight's Devil Rays-Yankees game, in the seventh inning with one out and Melky Cabrera on second base. Scott Kazmir is pitching for the Devil Rays and Derek Jeter is coming up to bat for the Yankees. Does the Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon elect to let his staff ace pitch to Derek Jeter? Of course not; that would make too much sense. Instead, he tells Kazmir to intentionally walk Deter Jeter, putting runners on second and first, in order to face Johnny Damon and get the vaunted lefty vs. lefty match-up. By walking Jeter, Maddon increased the Yankees' run expectancy by .215 runs (according to 2006 data).

When I saw him doing it, I knew it was a bad idea, but Maddon had done the same thing earlier in the game and gotten away with it so obviously he felt he could do the same again. The fact Andy Phillips was the next batter up the first time and Johnny Damon the second time must not have registered in his mind.

Intentional walks are bad ideas 99.9% of the time, but doing so because of a perceived handedness advantage in match-ups is asinine. If Maddon had taken the time to check, he would have seen Damon bats .298 AVG/.413 OBP/.429 SLG in 84 at-bats against left handed pitchers. From 2003-05, Damon hit .293 AVG/.350 OBP/.413 SLG in 624 at-bats, making this such of match-up useless. Over his career, Damon has always hit virtually the same against left handers and right handers. So what does Damon do against Kazmir?

He gets a triple, allowing both Cabrera and Jeter to waltz (not literally) across home plate. Congratulations, Maddon. You failed at playing the percentages in baseball because you did not understand them.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Barbaro Still Alive

A month and a half after shattering his right hind leg in the Preakness Stakes, Barbaro is still not out of the woods. After a month and a half. Recently, Barbaro, winner of the Kentucky Derby, has developed complications including having to have his cast changed twice, once to replace bent screws and a second time because Barbaro was uncomfortable. In addition, has to wear a supporting shoe on his left leg to protect him against laminitis, a fatal disease brought on uneven weight distribution.

These are just more reasons why Barbaro should have been put down after he suffered that catastrophic injury, just like any other race horse is. Fortunately or unfortunately for him, it occurred on national television and so the owners were forced into trying to save him. Listen, a horse is not a human. No matter how much you may try to attribute human characteristics to a horse in order to rationalize why you like it so much, the truth is a horse is and always will be an animal, and as an animal should not be treated as such.

That is why I watched in disbelief as people left get-well cards and signs for a horse who not only cannot read, but also wouldn't know why there were so many people leaving stuff for him. It was almost comical to watch so many people show compassion to one horse and ignore how dangerous the whole sport of horse racing is.

If anyone really cared about the welfare of Barbaro, then he or she would work to end a sport which is quite literally animal abuse. In order to help make clear the barbarism which is behind the sport of horse racing, I will point you to this site.

Since I do not expect you to read everything on the site, I will provide you with a few highlights.

  • Race horses are trained at too young an age since their bones' growth plates have not yet matured completely.

  • The average race horse lives 5-7 years of their 25 year life span. Compare that to riding horses who live 18-20 years.

  • When horses can no longer race, they are usually sent to slaughterhouses. Not out to the pasture for a lifetime of being a stud. Horses also sustain injuries being transported to these slaughterhouses.

  • Competitive racing at such a young age can cause stomach ulcers, heart murmurs, and bleeding in the lungs at levels not observed in horses worked reasonably.

  • Horses are drugged so that they can race.

While I honestly do not care if Barbaro lives or dies, those people who do consider themselves to be animal lovers would do well to work hard to end the "sport of kings."

Francoeur Good At One Thing (Not So Good At Others)

Yesterday, during the Braves-Reds Game, my favorite whipping boy Jeff Francoeur singled to left field with two outs in the 10th inning to drive in the winning run and while reading the recap, I learned that Francoeur leads the majors in RBI with two outs with 33 RBI. The notoriety of that statistic can be called into question, but Francoeur does have an impressive .302 BA/RISP and 5.5 Clutch and I will gladly give him credit for that..

Learning about Francoeur's prowess in the RBI (overrated statistic) category led me to wonder what other offensive categories Francoeur leads the league in or comes close to being in the lead (within the top 5). To make the comparisons a little more accurate, I only compared Francoeur's stats to other MLB qualifying right fielders.

EqA-3rd least (.192)

BA-3rd least (.258)

OPS-3rd least (.714)

Pitchers per Plate Appearance-2nd least (3.20)

Runs Created per 27 Outs-1st least (3.81)

Walks per Plate Appearance-1st least (.022)

Walks per Strikeout-1st least (.011)

VORP-1st least (-8.3)

If that does not prove to you how worthless the RBI is in painting an accurate portrait of a player, then nothing will.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Ben Wallace Gets Overpaid (Pt. II)

The more I think about the Chicago Bulls' offseason moves, the more I am convinced that either general manager John Paxson knows exactly what he is doing and I am stupid or he is tweaking the wrong parts of his roster and I should be expecting e-mails from NBA teams inquiring as to my availability for interviews. While the former is probably closer to the truth, it will in no way keep me from writing this post.

Unlike a few of the sports writers I have read lately, I am not enamored with the Bulls' transactions. Picking an offseason winner, or loser, is problematic on many levels because no one can know what will happen when the season actually begins, but this is not a direct indictment of those writers because they are probably fulfilling an editorial requirement placed on them by their employers. Still, I cannot get too excited about a team that signs the big-name free agent in a weak free agent class and then makes a trade for P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith. Without further adieu, though, let's get to my actual thoughts about how the Bulls roster has changed.

First, let's clear up the notion that the Bulls needed help on defense. They did not. Last season, the Bulls were 6th in the NBA in defensive efficiency with their opponents scoring 103.2 points per 100 possessions. The Detroit Pistons with Ben Wallace were 5th in the NBA in the same category with 103.1, not exactly an eye-opening difference in the two teams. Problems for the Bulls arose when they tried to put the ball in the basket as their 22nd ranking in offensive efficiency indicates. Those data beg the question of how much Ben Wallace (95 Def. Rating last year) will improve the Bulls defense over Tyson Chandler (100 Def. Rating last year). The fact the Bulls did not address their offensive need is something I will adress in a short while.

In the meantime, I am going to stick up for Tyson Chandler because I think he was, and still may be, on his way to being the equal of Ben Wallace in terms of defense and offense (although equaling Wallace's offense is not saying too much). From Chandler's rookie year to the 2004-05 season, Chandler's offensive rating went up, peaking at 112, and his defensive rating went all the way down to 94. Last season, Chandler has a worse year with his offensive rating decreasing to 107 and his defensive rating going up to 100, which still gave him a very respectable player win-loss percentage of .744.

The reason why I think Chandler had a drop-off in production is because it was also his first year without Eddy Curry. I haven't figured it all out in my head yet, but I think there is something to the fact Eddy Curry, a legit low-post player with legitimate size, leaves and Chandler suffers from having to play along with the likes of Mike Sweetney, Malik Allen, and Othella Harrington.

Now, the Bulls cannot be reproached for trading away Curry, who had a heart condition and was already overweight to begin with, but they have still have yet to replace him. Ben Wallace and Tyrus Thomas certainly will not and for the Bulls to have greater success, they will have to get more low-post scoring.

Before you bring up the fact that the Bulls actually increased their offensive efficiency from 2004-05 (with Curry) to 2005-06 (without Curry), I already know, but that can be explained by the natural increase a player will have in their offensive efficiency from their first to their second year (see: Ben Gordon, Andres Nocioni, and Luol Deng).

Finally, we will get to the trade that foolishly sent away Tyson Chandler to land P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith. It would seem that P.J. Brown is an attempt to answer Chicago's low-post scoring woes, but if so, it is a poor attempt. The last four seasons for Brown have seen a decrease in his offensive rating and a decrease in his defensive rating, the opposite of what you want from a player. At 36, he is on the decline and probably will not provide the Bulls with much.

Personally, I do not like J.R. Smith and that will understandably color my description of his worth. My bias against him started when I saw him play in the McDonald's High School All-American game where he constantly launched 35 foot 3-pointers. And I was glad when he declared for the NBA instead of coming to play at UNC so I wouldn't have to watch a moodier version of Rashad McCants during my undergraduate years at the university.

So far, my first instinct about J.R. Smith has been correct. He clashed with Byron Scott and now it will be interesting to see how he gets along with Scott Skiles who will be tougher on Smith than Scott ever was. Even if he does give the Bulls good production, it will just be more superfluous perimeter scoring. Besides, don't they already have Ben Gordon?

As is probably evident, I think the Bulls would have done well to keep Tyson Chandler and to find a legitimate low-post scoring threat, either in the draft or in free agency. Instead, they got help where they didn't need it and didn't get help where they did need it.

Congratulations must go to you if you made it all the way through this post, and when I am wrong, do not hesitate to remind me.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Joe Knows

Joe Torre, manager for the New York Yankees, has recently gone on record as saying he would rather have another bat than to have another pitcher. Whether or not Torre knows or even cares, I completely agree with his assessment, basically because the numbers bear it out.

Eighty-two games into the season, the Yankees are far from a fautless team, which anyone with two eyes has probably noticed after their fall from the top of the AL East. Yes, the Yankees score a lot of runs, but they do so in a way to make their run totals completely misleading.

As I have alluded to in at least one previous blog post, the Yankees both in terms of defense and offense have been maddeningly inconsistent. But the Yankees have been more inconsistent when it comes to their offense.

To put a finger on how consistent a team is, I looked at the variance in a team's runs scored and runs allowed. The variance numbers for the Yankees do not paint a pretty picture. For their offense, the Yankees have a variance of 14.5 and their variance for their defense is 11.5, both poor numbers for a team with such a good record.

The Yankees' last two games provide a perfect snapshot of their offensive inconsistency. Yesterday, they were outscored by the Cleveland Indians 19-1 and today, they bounced back to trounce the Indians by the score of 11-3. When you put those run totals (on the offensive side) in the grand scheme of things, they average out nicely, but you never want a team to be so across the board in the points they score.

If the Yankees were only one of many inconsistent teams in the major leagues, it would not be such a problem, but that is not the case. Of the two other teams, the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays, the Yankees are fighting for the AL East Division title and with it a playoff berth, the Yankees are the most inconsistent, by a long shot. Since you will no doubt be faced with this trivia question soon, the answer to the most consistent, good AL East team is the Toronto Blue Jays.

Whether a new bat will have the desired effect on the Yankee offense and bring consistency to the Bronx Bombers is up for debate. What is not is that right now, another bat is much more important to their future success than a new pitcher would be, seeing as how their pitching has been the more consistent aspect of their season.

Really, Tom?

Tom Verducci of, in one of the far-reaching arguments of all time, wants to attribute the poor play of late of the New York Mets to the fact Pedro Martinez injured his hip on May 26. This would be kind of funny if Verducci were not serious about every word he writes. His lack of satire makes the whole article a depressing ordeal instead.

You can take the temperature of the New York Mets just the same way you could the Boston Red Sox for a seven-year period: Use Pedro Martinez as your thermometer.

Why exactly would you take the temperature of the New York Mets by using their second-best pitcher as your thermometer? What can you really learn from doing that? As of the writing of Verducci's article, Glavine has been the best pitcher for the New York Mets this year. He leads the Mets starting pitching staff (with at least 35 innings thrown) in actual total wins, actual winning percentage, expected total wins, expected winning percentage, team wins, SNLVAR, run average, and fair run average. He may lead the Mets pitchers in other categories, but those are the ones I came across in the first thirty seconds or so or looking. In addition to those categories, Glavine bests Martinez when it comes to having more consistent outings with a FLAKE of .201 to Martinez's .239 and Glavine leaves more runners on base with a 79.8 LOB% to Martinez's 72.4 LOB%.

Despite the overwhelming support I just laid out to suggest Glavine has been the better pitcher, I will still follow Verducci's advice and using Pedro as my thermometer.

Since May 26, when Martinez slipped while having to change his undershirt during a Mets-Dodgers Game, the Mets have gone 21-15 for a winning percentage of .583. Up to May 26, the Mets were 28-19 with a winning percentage of .596. There is not exactly a great disparity between the two records and if Martinez is supposed to be the thermometer, well, he is not a very good at gauging the temperature of the New York Mets.

Pedro, in his own words, has not "been the same since," but whether that has to do with his hip injury the teams he has faced, you will have to decide for yourself after reading this post. The two time spans I will be comparing are the same ones Verducci looks at during his article: April 6-May 26 and May 31-June 28.

Looking at the surface, it would be easy to point to his 5-1 win-loss record (in ten starts) in the first span and his 2-3 record (in 6 starts) in the second span and wash your hands of the whole matter, but wins do not always provide a good indicator of how good a pitcher really is. What does provide a good picture are a pitcher's strikeout rate, walk rate, and home run rate, and even under those criteria, Martinez has struggled.

His home run rate (HR/9) has increased only marginally from 1.2 HR/9 to 1.3 HR/9, his walk rate (BB/9) ballooned from 1.9 BB/9 to 2.9 BB/9, and his strikeout rate (K/9) has fallen drastically from 10.6 K/9 to 8.2 K/9.

Still, even that is not enough and I wanted to see if his reduction in production had to do which teams he pitched against. Of Martinez's first ten starts, seven starts came against teams which rank in the top 6 in slugging percentage of their respective leagues. Contrast that to his last six starts where three of his starts were against teams who rank in the top 6 in slugging percentage of their respective leagues so Martinez had the same number of starts against good slugging teams in 60% of the starts.

Looking further into Martinez's performance, I took the games where he started against the bottom half slugging teams and compared them to the starts against the top half slugging teams. I looked at strikeout rate, home run rate, walk rate, and I even looked at RA (run average takes into account earned and unearned runs).

Run Average
Good Teams: 6.2 RA
Bad Teams: 2.7 RA

Home Run Rate
Good Teams: 1.3 HR/9
Bad Teams: 1.2 HR/9

Walk Rate
Good Teams: 3.6 BB/9
Bad Teams: 1.9 BB/9

Strikeout Rate
Good Teams: 11.1 K/9
Bad Teams: 9.2 K/9

As you can see, largely based on the disparity in RA and walk rate between when Martinez pitches against good teams rather than bad teams, there is more evidence to suggest Martinez's struggles are less a result of his hip than they are of him facing better hitting ballclubs.

It should not surprise you that his home run rate against good teams and bad teams is basically identical because it was the same when comparing the two time frames and has been his most consistent rate statistic. What did surprise me ws his increased strikeout rate, but that is nullified by his walk rate almost being doubled when he pitches against a good team.

I feel confident in predicting Pedro will regain his pre-May 31 form once he gets more starts against the Braves and the Nationals in the second half of the season.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ben Wallace Gets Overpaid

Ben Wallace, welcome to the Overpaid Athletes Club. Do not confuse my sentiments here, though. I in no way begrudge Ben Wallace for the contract he signed with the Chicago Bulls worth $60 million dollars over four years. Chicago Bulls fans should not get overly exciting about the signing, but I actually think athletes should steal as much money as they can from the foolish general managers and owners who give them their contracts.

Still, his reaction to the Detroit Pistons' contract offer was a bit much, calling it "disappointing" and "not what I expected." Wallace perhaps should have taken what the Pistons were willing to pay him as a compliment since if he had signed his name on the dotted line, he would have been made the highest paid Piston on a team where he is not even the best Piston. That award goes to Chauncey Billups, who has had a better player win-loss percentage than Wallace over the past three years.

Actually, looking at Ben Wallace's career statistics, it's hard for me to project what kind of output he will give a team in the future, which would certainly scare me off if I were a GM. Of course, I am not a GM (if I were, I would not have signed Ben Wallace), but allow me to wear the hat of one and let you in on what I looked at concerning Ben Wallace and why I did not necessarily come away impressed.

Let's start with Ben's 2001-02 season, which was inarguably his best. During this season, he posted the best player win-loss percentage of his career of .960%. Player win-loss records were devised by Dean Oliver and narrows down how many games a particular player directly influences and either wins for his team or loses.

Since that season, his player win-loss percentage has decreased except for last year when it "mysteriously" increased again. I say mysteriously because I am always skeptical of a player who has a large jump in any stat during his contract year and that is what Ben Wallace did, with his win-loss percentage jumping up .095 points.

During that same time, his offensive rating decreased from 117 to 108 to 98 (below the league average) and then went back up to 105 and 112. Part of the decrease (108 to 98) can be attributed to Wallace using more possessions on offense for the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons, but he used about the same number of possessions when his offensive rating increased from 98 to 105 so maybe he got used to having more possessions and increased his offensive efficiency accordingly. When his usage rate returned to a more palatable rate during 2005-06, his offensive rating rose to 112, impressive, but he still does not contribute much on the offensive side as his 7.3 ppg attests.

However, it is his defense, what he is best known for, which has suffered recently. For the first time in Wallace's career in 2004-05, his defensive rating increased going from 87 to 94 and then from 94 to 95. Having a defensive rating of 94 still leaves Wallace comfortably below the league average of 106, but it should cause a red flag for any team that hopes Wallace will be the stopper of old.

For a better look at how Wallace has been slipping during the last few seasons, I took the difference between his offensive rating and his defensive rating, starting again with 2001-02. Wallace went from +24 that season to +18 to +11 to +11 to +17. Now, I am still not sure whether to count out the two +11 seasons because he used more possessions than what was good for the team and himself or if I should discount the last season because it was a contract year.

Because I was not satisfied with looking at just his offensive and defensive ratings because no matter how good of a statistic they are, they are still not good enough, in a vacuum, to project what a player will do, I also looked at Wallace's net PER to see how much net overall contribution he gave the Pistons over the opposing centers he faced. PER is a statistic developed by John Hollinger and attempts to give a per minute rating of a player's performance.

For this I started with 2003-04 (the first season I could find his net PER) and ended with his 2005-06 season, looking only at his net PER while he played the center position. The results certainly do not paint a pretty picture about how much net production Ben Wallace has been giving his team. Over the last three seasons, Wallace's net PER at the center position has gone from +3.2 to +2.9 to +1.4 so his overall contribution has decreased each year. His net PER drop-off was most glaring during the playoffs when he had a net PER of -9.8, being grossly outplayed by the other centers he faced while playing 74% of the team's center minutes.

Overall, after looking at all of these statistics, there is nothing I can point to with confidence to tell me Wallace will continue to maintain that +17 rating he put up last season or rebound from his reduction in net PER and nothing which would justify such an exorbitant contract.

If you are completely confused after reading this, then welcome to the party because I confused myself while writing it. There is one thing I can say with certainty, though. The confusion about what Wallace will give me on the court would far outweigh any leadership qualities he might bring to my team (leadership qualities that did not appear during the playoffs when he was criticizing Flip Saunders and questioning Saunders' coaching acumen while being outplayed by other centers).

But I wouldn't have traded for Stromile Swift, I mean Tyrus Thomas, either, so John Paxson and I would probably never agree on Ben Wallace.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A-Rod Just As Clutch As Ortiz (And More Than Jeter)

Once again I find myself writing about a player's clutch ability even though I find the way it is praised by so many sports fans ad nauseam to be, well, nauseating. Still, I have been annoyed enough by it that I have decided to take a long at Alex Rodriguez compared to David Ortiz and see if one was really so impressively more clutch (Ortiz) that I, too, should join in the booing party that occurs every time Rodriguez steps into the plate (except when he hits a "big" homer, of course, and then he is suddenly beloved).

One statistic everyone loves to point to is the close and late statistic developed by the Elias Sports Bureau and available on each ESPN player card, at least from 2002-2006. The close and late criteria are "results in the 7th inning or later with the batting team ahead by one run, tied, or with the potential tying run at least on deck." What I was concerned with here is not how good each player does in this close and late situation, but how often a player will come up in this situation, and therefore how important it really is.

Over the last four and a half seasons, Ortiz has stepped into the batter's box 2,340 times, of which 322 at-bats fell under the close and late criteria, meaning those at-bats comprise an underwhelming 13.8% of his total at-bats. For Alex Rodriguez, the number is slightly smaller since he has had 2,729 at-bats in the same time, 369 of which were close and late for 13.5% of his total at-bats.

Intuitively, you probably know that the at-bats would not amount to much since the 7th through the 9th innings only comprise 33% of the game, but it bears repeating that neither of these players had a close and late at-bat percentage of even half of 33%.

And that is why I cannot take the close and late situation seriously. Some criteria which comes up so infrequently should be not the only plank in someone's argument for why a player is not clutch. Even if a player does struggle in close and late situations (A-Rod does not; Ortiz is just superhuman), he will still have the other 86% of his bats to make up for it.

In an attempt to find a better clutch statistic, I stumbled upon The Hardball Times. There they have their own clutch statistic, which even they admit is not meant to be the definitive look on clutch hitting, but it is a lot better than close and late and not just because it helps me prove my point, either. Their clutch statistic looks at the impact of a player's batting average with runners in scoring position and also home runs with runners on.

The numbers for 2006 may surprise, but before I get to that, yes, Ortiz did blow Rodriguez away in 2004 and 2005 and that is why I trust it for the 2006 season. Ironically, in the season where the ire of the Yankees fans have been at their greatest, A-Rod has put up his most clutch season as a Yankee with a 5.0 Clutch. Ortiz, on the other hand, has been less than stellar with a -1.8 Clutch.

It only seems as if Ortiz has been more clutch because he brings more excitement to his clutch hits, but they have not been more valuable than Alex's.

Some of you may be saying right now, "But David, Ortiz has 11 more RBI than does A-Rod, he has to have been more clutch this season." You are correct with the RBI totals, but Ortiz has also had 208 plate appearances with runners on base to Rodriguez's 195. Now those extra RBI don't look so marvelous, do they?

Actually, the two players' OBI% (number of others batted in divided by runners on base) is not that far away from each other with Ortiz having a slight edge over Rodriguez (.166 OBI% to .157 OBI%).

All in all, Alex Rodriguez is just as clutch as David Ortiz (at least this year) and really does not the deserve the criticism he gets.

As an afterthought, another player I decided to compare Alex Rodriguez, too, in terms of the aforementioned clutch statistic is Derek Jeter, overly praised Captain of the Yankees, and while Jeter gets all the credit for coming up with big hits, he is still not as clutch as Rodriguez, according to the way the formula is created. Since Rodriguez became a Yankee in 2004, he has been better than Jeter in all three years (2004: -5.3 to -5.9, 2005: -8.8 to -10.3, 2006: 5.0 to 2.0).

Maybe everyone has been booing the wrong Yankee.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Not Hard To Fathom At All

As Joel Sherman of the New York Post has probably already learned, throwaway statements are usually dangerous because they reflect a surface-level thinking and are usually incorrect. At least, I can only hope this was a throwaway statement and not something Sherman truly believes.

Andy Pettitte is following up the best season of his career with his worst. That is hard to fathom, as well.

When a pitcher has his career year in his eleventh season in the big leagues, that is harder to fathom than the pitcher following up that year with a worse year. The expectation going into this year should have been that Pettitte would come back to earth after posting numbers so much better than his career mean. True, his 1.5 HR/9 innings this season is much worse than any other year of his career, but overall, there is nothing particularly strange about Pettitte's season.

The strange really applies to his 2005 season. During that season, he drastically reduced his BB/9 innings and posted the best mark of his career in that category (1.66 BB/9). He was also much more consistent in his starts last season over this one, with a FLAKE of
.200 in 2005 and .265 in 2006, but that is really immaterial to the point I am trying to prove here, which is that Pettitte's 2005 season is more of an outlier than this 2006 season.

In an effort to prove this, I looked at three of the statistics Andy Pettitte and every other pitcher have the most control over: walk rate, strikeout rate, and home run rate (and for a bonus I looked at his K/BB ratio). Then I found the average and standard deviation of each of those statistics to find out how close his rates in 2005 and 2006 were to the average. Here is what I found.

Pettitte's average walk rate for his career is 2.81 BB/9 with a standard deviation of 0.79. He posted a walk rate of 1.66 BB/9 in 2005 and 3.17 BB/9 in 2006 so while his 2006 walk rate is only one standard deviation away from his career average, his 2005 walk rate is two standard deviations away from the average. Edge goes to his 2006 walk rate for being more in line with his career statistics.

For Pettitte, both his 2005 strikeout rate (6.92 K/9) and 2006 strikeout rate (6.75 K/9) are both within one standard deviation (.90) of his average strikeout rate (6.55 K/9). It must be said that his 2006 strikeout rate is closer to the average so a slight edge goes to the 2006 season for being less unusual for Pettitte.

Another telling statistic of how much of an outlier Pettitte's 2005 year was is his strikeout-to-walk ratio or his K/BB. Again, his 2006 ratio of 2.13 K/BB is one standard deviation (0.95) away from his career average (2.33 K/BB) and his 2005 ratio of 4.17 K/BB is two standard deviations away.

The one statistic I looked at where Pettitte's 2005 season is more in line with his 2006 one is his home run rate. He has a career home run rate of 0.76 HR/9 with a standard deviation of 0.31. In 2005, Pettitte had a 0.69 HR/9, one standard deviation away. This year, Pettitte's home run rate is 1.50 HR/9, worst of his career and a big reason for his mediocre pitching, which is a whopping three standard deviations away from his career average. If Pettitte does not give up another home run for the rest of the season, his home run rate will return to normalcy, but the chances of that happening do not look good.

Overall, though, I can say with confidence that Pettitte's season so far is not hard to fathom at all, contrary to what Joel Sherman believes.

No Wonder The Phoenix Mercury Suck

When I wrote about the Phoenix Mercury being the most exciting team to watch in the WNBA, largely because they score a lot of points per 100 possessions and give up even more points per 100 possessions. What I did not know about the time because I had not bothered to look it up was who the head coach was. Now that is has come to my attention that the Mercury are guided by Paul Westhead, it all makes sense.

Westhead, during his coaching tenures, is most famous for having his teams play at a frenetic pace and scoring a lot of points, seemingly because Westhead simply likes seeing a lot of points on the scoreboard whether it be from his team or the opponent. He did so as the coach for Loyola Marymount where they racked up gaudy offensive totals from a purely points per game standpoint.

When he made the move to the NBA from Loyola Marymount, he brought along his offensively philosophy and his lack of defensively philosophy. Westhead's 1991 Denver Nuggets team played at the fastest pace of any NBA team since 1974 with 114.0 possessions a game. Still, they were below the league average in offensive efficiency and above the league average in defensive efficiency, two places you do not want to see a team if you are a coach or a GM or an owner. In fact, the 1991 Nuggets team is the seventh worst historical defense since 1974.

Now his flawed coaching methods have led the Phoenix Mercury to a below-.500 record. As of last Tuesday, they averaged the most points per game in the NBA, both for scoring and allowing. However, they rank "only" third in offensive efficiency (they are last in the league in defensive efficiency). Even at the age of 67, Westhead does not seem to see the correlation between giving up a lot of points and not winning. For those counting at home, it is an indirect correlation.

But hey, it's still fun to watch.