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Just The Sports: 2007-05-20

Just The Sports

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Soriano and Matthews, Jr.

In the midst of Alfonso Soriano's career best season last year for the Washington Nationals in his walk year, I cautioned any team against signing him for anything more than $10 million a year due to the fact Soriano has shown himself to be far from a very consistent hitter. During last season, in my mind but not on paper so you will have to take my word for it, I thought any team would be foolish to reward former Texas Ranger Gary Matthews, Jr. with anything even approaching $10 million a year for his career season that also coincided with his walk year since in addition to rarely playing a full season, he was not the kind of hitter or fielder a team should give a long-term contract to. Lo and behold, the Chicago Cubs gave Soriano a ridiculous eight-year, $136 million contract and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim gifted Matthews, Jr. an equally ridiculous five-year, $50 million contract. Maybe the Cubs and Angels were banking on the fact that the two outfielders would be able to re-create their best season multiple times over, but with Soriano being 31 and Gary Matthews, Jr. turning 32 later this year, the likelihood of that happening is on the same level as pigs flying.

So far this season, the two players are lagging behind their hitting statistics from last season and they are doing so in similar ways. Last year through thirty-eight games played, Soriano had a batting line of .285 BA/.327 OBP/.544 SLG, giving him a .283 GPA (OBP*1.8+SLG/4; read like batting average). This season, in the same time frame, he has only managed to compile a line of .283 BA/.341 OBP/.459 SLG and a .268 GPA. The most glaring difference between these two lines is that Soriano has seemingly left behind his power in moving to Chicago. Soriano's isolated power (slugging average minus batting average) has decreased from .259 when he was playing for a contract to only .176 after he achieved financial security. For a corner outfielder, where high power numbers are demanded to warrant the player maintaining his position in the starting lineup, the drop-off should be especially troubling for the Cubs.

Gary Matthews, Jr. has decided to take even more of a vacation away from hitting well after signing his contract with the Angels. In his first forty-six games of the 2006 season, Matthews, Jr. was hitting .318 BA/.380 OBP/.547 SLG and a .308 GPA, which is far superior to the .296 BA/.350 OBP/.453 SLG and .271 GPA line he is carrying this year. Like Soriano, Matthews, Jr. has suffered a power outage with his new team, with his isolated power through forty-six games last year of .229, surpassing his cumulative isolated power this season of .159.

Unless both Soriano and Matthews, Jr. kick it into high gear and pretend they are playing for a new contract, which is highly improbable, the Cubs and the Angels will find themselves not witnessing more career years from the players, but instead a decline in the players' skills.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Why The Bills Will Not Win Anytime Soon

In true Darwinian evolutionary form, each year the average NFL quarterback becomes a more accurate passer and in so doing, the quarterbacks who continue to struggle with completing a high percentage of their passes will be left behind, victims of the NFL's form of natural selection. Right now, the average starting quarterback is completing around 60% of his passes so it is more than ever important that when teams draft a college quarterback who they plan to play, that he have completed over 60% of his collegiate passes while playing significant time. As I have written multiple times in the past, what a quarterback does in college will be a direct reflection of the percentage at which he completes passes in the pros.

Yet, the Buffalo Bills in drafting J.P. Losman with the 22nd overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft and Trent Edwards with the 92nd overall pick in the 2007 draft have completely eschewed all the logic and data I have laid out. At Tulane, Losman only completed 58.6% of his passes in the games where he either attempted the most passes or passed for the most yards. Not surprisingly, his NFL completion percentage of 58.0% is virtually identical to his NCAA one and is neither statistically significantly worse nor statistically significantly better.

Then there is former Stanford quarterback, Trent Edwards. When he found himself healthy enough to play for the Cardinals, which was not often, Edwards only completed 57.3% of his collegiate passes in significant playing time so if he is given enough quarterbacking chances in the NFL, he will have either a slightly worse or identical career to J.P. Losman with both of them being below-average quarterbacks for their careers. Whatever intangibles Edwards supposedly possesses cannot possibly outweigh the tangibles that say he is not worthy of starting for any NFL team, unless he is planning to time travel back to the 1970s.

Making the two quarterback mistakes the Bills have made is enough to mire any NFL franchise in mediocrity for many years and those who are not Bills fans should consider themselves lucky to be able to watch the mediocrity without caring too much.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Top Scorer Consistency

Even though consistency is overlooked by many others, that oversight does not diminish its ability to allow someone to determine just how dependable a particular player is. With the NBA regular season behind us, it is time to update a post I wrote on January 19th in which I discussed the consistent and inconsistent of the top five scorers at the time. Since that post, two of those original five players, Dwyane Wade and Allen Iverson, were supplanted in the top five by Ray Allen and LeBron James. However, instead of discarding Wade and Iverson, I decided to keep their season statistics and add Allen's and James's, making it seven scorers in all that were compared to each other.

Much of the results that I discovered during my original post on this subject held through to the end of the season, but there were a few minor changes that deserve mention. In keeping with and living up to the new nickname I bestowed upon him of Agent Zero Inconsistency, Gilbert Arenas finished up the regular season with the highest true shooting percentage standard deviation (.146). Unfortunately for him, he was unable to sweep the inconsistency player award and had to give up his inconsistent points per game average throne to Kobe Bryant. Bryant won that honor with a points per game standard deviation of 11.9, 1.5 higher than Arenas's 10.4. What makes Bryant's high points per game standard deviation less worse than Arenas's inconsistencies is the fact he was a more consistent shooter with a true shooting percentage standard deviation of .116 and his wide range of point totals had more to do with his field goal attempts per game standard deviation of 7.5, tops among the seven players.

As for the most consistent scorers and shooters, Carmelo Anthony was able to maintain his supremacy in consistency over his colleagues. Just like he did on January 19th, Anthony had the lowest points per game standard deviation with one of 6.4, which is actually identical to what it was during my first writing-up of this subject. In addition, Anthony was the most consistent shooter with a true shooting percentage standard deviation of only .095. This barely beat out Dwyane Wade, who had one of .096.

The most important conclusion one should draw from this information is that those who have a reputation for scoring a lot of points and having an affinity for attempting their field goals behind the three-point line are the ones who are going to be the least consistent shooters no matter what reputation they may possess. Take Ray Allen for example. He is known as one of the league's premier perimeter shooters and yet his true shooting percentage standard deviation of .129 was second only to Arenas's.

If a team is going to employ a player in the vein of Bryant, Arenas, or Allen (one who takes a large number of shots that include a large number of three-point attempts thrown in), in order to ensure that the team will succeed, a consistent shooter, low-post or perimeter, who takes and makes a high number of high-percentage shots is necessary to balance out the offensive inconsistencies that are likely to occur.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Carl Pavano's Wedding Plans

New York Yankees infrequent starting pitcher Carl Pavano has recently announced his intentions to marry the Disabled List on whom he has spent so much time over the past two years. In order to avoid extra and unwanted attention given to his relationship with the Disabled List, Pavano has made the decision to wed the Disabled List in a small, private ceremony in his hometown of New Britain, Connecticut, with only his closest friends and family members in attendance.

The betrothed have known each other for a total of six years, first meeting when Pavano went on the Disabled List on March 23, 2001 and stayed on it for most of the 2001 MLB season, but Pavano remembers that it was definitely not love at first sight. "When the Disabled List and I met for the first time, we had a few laughs and a few good times, but when it came to the start of the 2002 season, I realized I just wasn't ready for a long-term relationship with the Disabled List," Pavano recalled. "It just wasn't the right time for either of us, but we promised that if fate was ever kind enough to bring us back together, that we would give it another shot."

Fate did smile on Pavano and the Disabled List almost as soon as he signed a four-year, $39.95 million contract with the Yankees. Since he and the Disabled List reacquainted themselves with each other on July 7, 2005, they have been almost inseparable except for a handful of fights that saw Pavano pitch again, only to return to the Disabled List more committed to her than ever.

"Maybe it was my greater maturity at the age of 29 or the fact I had finally achieved guaranteed financial security as a professional baseball player, whether I pitched or not, but I fell in love with the Disabled List almost immediately. I can't imagine my life without her now and I don't see myself ever straying too far away from her in the future.

"Although I knew I loved her, I never thought about marrying the Disabled List until I was talking to my friend and he told me if I loved the Disabled List so much, why didn't I just marry her. So I am."

The Disabled List also expressed strong feelings for Carl Pavano and acknowledges she can't wait to get married to him. "Not to brag, but I have had a lot of baseball players give me attention and spend time with me," the Disabled List stated. "Even so, I don't think I've ever had a player who made me feel as loved and as appreciated as Carl does. I know he won't ever leave me and that's why I said yes after he proposed. What Carl and I have together, no amount of corrective surgery or fans' ire or not wanting to let his teammates down is going to be able to tear us apart."