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Just The Sports: 2006-08-27

Just The Sports

Friday, September 01, 2006

Jeff Francoeur Update

Another month has passed and little has changed in the slightly-above-replacement level career of one Jeffrey Braden Francoeur as he followed up a good July with a poor August. He will continue to be inconsistent for as long as his career lasts because he has yet to show any desire to have plate discipline and swing only at pitches he can drive. Of the 170 qualified hitters, only five hitters see less pitches per plate appearance than Francoeur. Of those five, only Placido Polanco is a worse hitter, but Polanco is a middle infielder, not a corner outfielder so he can get away without producing much at the plate.

I could write about the other failings of Francoeur, however, today I am going to be positive about his career and talk about his clutchiness. You can read more about clutchiness here and here.

Given the hitting numbers Francoeur has put up, he could be expected to add -0.71 OPS wins, but in reality he has added a win probability of .82 in situations with a leverage index of 1.1. Multiplying the win probability added to the leverage index and then subtracting the OPS wins gives Francoeur a clutchiness of 1.61 so his hits have come in big spots. It is too bad they are so infrequent.

FIBA World Championship Round-Up (Semi-Finals)

So I was wrong about both of my predicted winners, which I warned you I would be, but I was not completely wrong about how the games would play themselves out. For the Greece-USA match, my thoughts were that the team who performed better on its weaker side of the court would go on the win the game. That was an empty cliche, which means very little, but it was still applicable and turned out to be true. However, it was Greece who did so and not the USA team. The Greece squad picked the perfect moment to play their second-most efficient game on offense of the tournament, putting up numbers the USA would be jealous of by picking-and-rolling until their hearts were content. They had an offensive rating of 131.4 and a floor percentage of .61 on the way to victory.

The kryptonite of USA was their inconsistent defense, something I acknowledged and subsequently ignored. Instead of playing the sort of defense they had over the last three games, they chose to play the defense they did against Puerto Rico, only worse. To say their defense is the result of a lack of practice time together is no doubt accurate, but I would not want to take anything away from Greece's performance.

Continuing their trend of intimidating opponents on the free throw line, the players Greece fouled in the act of shooting only shot 58.8% from the charity stripe, even though Greece allowed the USA the highest number of foul shot attempts of any team they have faced in the World Championships.

The Spain-Argentina game turned out to be as close as their stats suggested and Spain came away the victor by one point. The game was so close in fact that Spain won despite having a lower offensive rating than Argentina (98.4 to 104.9). Spain did manage six more possessions than Argentina, based on their higher number of free throw attempts, which turned out to be the deciding factor in this game and allowed Spain to recover from being out-offensive rebounded and turning the ball over five more times than Argentina. Now Spain will go on to face Greece.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

FIBA World Championship Semi-Finals Preview

Even though semi-final play in the FIBA World Championships does not occur until Friday, it is not too early to preview the two games and make predictions that will undoubtedly go wrong. The four teams that have made it this far should come as no surprise since they are also the four teams that went undefeated in group play.

Spain vs. Argentina

This game, pitting two countries with the same primary language against each other, is the more evenly matched one because Spain and Argentina in this tournament have been almost mirror images of each other. Both countries have high offensive ratings and floor percentages; Spain's numbers are 119.0 and .54 and Argentina's are 117.4 and .53. Each shoots well from the field and the line. Argentina shoots a slightly higher free throw percentage, but Spain shoots and makes more total free throws. Argentina does turn the ball over less than Spain, but you get the point.

The similarities extend to defense as well. Spain has a defensive rating of 91.1 and allows their opponents a floor percentage of .41. Argentina gives up 90.5 points per 100 possessions and an opponent floor percentage of .43. Spain's opponents average 2.2 more 3-pointers than Argentina's, but Argentina gives up more offensive rebounds. Each does it in a slightly different way and still arrives at basically the same numbers.

As for the winner of this match-up, I will be going with Argentina for the simple fact they have been more consistent throughout tournament play, going by variance of offensive and defensive ratings.

USA vs. Greece

To me, this is the more intriguing of the two semi-final games because it pits two teams with differing philosophies. Each team has been efficient on both sides of the ball, but there is no disputing the fact the US's very efficient offense has been its calling card while Greece is most known for a consistently good, smothering defense. The winner of this game will be the one who can play better on the other side of the court.

What has been most impressive about Greece's defense is the low percentage allowed on free throw shooting along with opponents only average 16 free throw attempts a game. Perhaps there are those who think opponents' free throw percentage is out of a team's hands, but I am not one of them. Fouling the right people on the court is as much a skill as hitting a jumper and Greece has excelled at it.

Overall, the US has an offensive rating of 128.5 and a defensive rating of 98.8; Greece has an offensive rating of 113.5 and a defensive rating of 90.9. Therefore, the US has an overall efficiency margin advantage.

I predict the US will win because their defense, although more inconsistent than Greece's, has been much improved over the last three games and Greece's offensive rating is inflated by a 148.0 game when they played against a porous China defense, making the team look better than it probably is.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mullin Should Have Fired Himself, Too

Right after Chris Mullin fired Mike Montgomery to hire his former coach, Don Nelson, to coach the Golden State Warriors, he should have walked to the closest mirror and told his reflection that he was fired as well since he has as much to do with the sorry state of the Golden State Warriors as does the coach who should have stayed at Stanford. But of course front-office personnel would always rather fire coaches and trade away players than face the truth, which is they really have no idea how to put together a roster that will win games.

Mullin became the Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations in April 2004 and since then he has made mistake after mistake after mistake and everyone wants to blame the coach instead. Mullin's first mistake was the signing of Adonal Foyle to a 6-year/$51.2 million contract, when no one was really trying to outbid him.

Foyle has been a worthless player for seven of his nine seasons, not playing defense or offense particularly well. His best season was, you guessed it, his walk year and that is also the only year he played a full 82-game season. He played reasonably well in 2005, but even then his player winning percentage was only .635 and he had little impact on games.

Mullin's second error in judgment was two of the three players he has chosen to build the Warriors around: Jason Richardson and Mike Dunleavy. For all of Richardson's athletic ability, if he is the star of your team, then your team will never be very good. He has improved his offensive rating over the past three years, but even at its apex, it is still barely above the league average. Instead of taking smart shots, Richardson instead elects to shoot a lot, using most of the Warriors' possessions, to score his points, efficiency be damned. Defense will probably never be something he is interested in playing either.

Dunleavy was an excellent college player, but he is not in college anymore and he is not particularly good. His play will cause the team to lose as many games as it wins, something he has in common with his teammate, Jason Richardson.

Trading for Baron Davis at the 2005 deadline did little to help the Warriors much either. Davis is an oft-injured malcontent, whose best year came at the age of 21 in 2001 five years ago, and who when healthy is not worth his playing time. He has been even worse than Richardson in dominating the ball and has an equal offensive rating. In keeping with the common theme, no team with Davis as one of its main stars will ever be good.

The signing of Derek Fisher from the Los Angeles Lakers is another headscratcher because Fisher's best attribute is his ability to knock down 3-pointers after the opponent double teams the center and he is not even that consistent at doing that. The Warriors have no big men any team feels the need to double so Fisher is hamstrung as a player. He is a sure ballhandler, at least even if he is not very productive.

In order to not be all doom and gloom about Chris Mullin's tenure, he has done two good things since he was hired. He locked up Troy Murphy long time and he drafted Ike Diogu. And that is about it. But it's always the coach's fault.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Adam Archuleta And Tackling

In yesterday's game against the New England Patriots, Adam Archuleta led the Washington Redskins defense with ten tackles in regular defensive plays. Normally, a football team does not want their safety to be the leading tackler because it usually means the tackles are occurring downfield and the opponent is able to move the ball at will. Such was the case with Archuleta.

Of his ten tackles, five of them stopped New England from having a successful play, the other five did not, and the tackles came an average of 8.6 yards past the line of scrimmage. To his credit, Archuleta performed much better when his tackles came against the run. When he involved himself in running plays, the offense only gained the sufficient amount of yardage one time and the other four tackles came 1 yard past the line of scrimmage on average. Overall, his run tackles gained 3.2 yards per play.

On pass plays, the story is the complete opposite. Instead of stopping the offense four out of five times, his tackles came on four of five successful plays for the Patriots an average of 14 yards downfield. His tackling totals were high, but they were not very effective, but then again, the Redskins defense as a whole gave up 41 points, but there was not much stopping from anywhere.

Fortunately for the Redskins, they have shown an utter disdain for the pre-season and need to keep their starters as healthy as possible since they have little depth.