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Just The Sports: 2008-01-06

Just The Sports

Thursday, January 10, 2008

No Silver Lining

The NBA's 82-game season is already marathon enough, but when a team starts the season by only winning nine of its first thirty-four games for a winning percentage of .265, which is exactly what the New York Knicks have done, the journey becomes even that much more interminable. In hopes of trying to find a silver lining in the Knicks season, some crumb on which a Knicks fan can nibble on the way to the team's future appearance in the 2008 NBA draft lottery, I thought perhaps there was a possibility that the losses of this season's Knicks team were not as bad as their forty-nine losses of the 2006-07 season. What happened at the end of my search was that I discovered my theory was in a word, erroneous.

Not only have this season's Knicks been losing games at a far higher rate than they did last year, in a season when the team should have been improving and preparing themselves for a playoff berth, they have also had worse losses, losing in a more embarrassing manner. Last season, when the Knicks came up on the losing end of a game, they were outscored by 11.5 points per 100 possessions and this year, their margin of defeat has increased to an appalling 15.0 points per 100 possessions. The Knicks on offense are so anemic they are neither averaging one point per shot attempt (.98 PSA) nor one point per team possession (99.5 points per 100 possession). In addition, in their losses, the Knicks are only managing a true shooting percentage of 48.9%, a far cry from last season's team's 51.7 TS% in losses.

If anything can serve as a deathknell to the current Knicks administration, it should be the fact the Knicks are regressing in more than one way. It would be one thing for a team to lose close games, showing it is right on the cusp of realizing its potential, but to lose games in such a decided manner, especially on the professional level where there should not be such a wide gap between teams' abilities to win, lends credence to the conclusion the current structure of the team is flawed.

Unfortunately for anyone who follows the Knicks, there seems to be no light at the end of this tunnel. Instead, there is only more darkness.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Clemens and Steroids

This whole article presupposes that Roger Clemens started using steroids or human growth hormone (HGH) or any other performance enhancing chemicals in 1998 and continued using these illegal supplements throughout the rest of his career, which so far seems to have ended after the 2007 season. Following this premise, Clemens then had fourteen clean seasons and ten seasons where he was juicing. Now, it is already apparent that Clemens never had the complete body transformation Bonds experienced nor did he ever become a superhuman pitcher, but it is important to try to establish where and if Clemens was helped by the illegal supplements if he indeed took them.

After looking at Clemens' 623 pitching starts, one notices immediately that the steroids did not make him a better pitcher. Actually, in his last ten seasons, Clemens failed to match five of the most important pitching statistics in a statistically significant manner: his fielding-independent ERA (3.18 to 3.53), walks allowed per nine innings (2.74 BB/9 IP to 3.14 BB/9 IP), home runs allowed per nine innings (.60 HR/9 IP to .76 HR/9 IP), strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.12 K/BB to 2.73 K/BB), and average innings pitched per start (7.3 IP to 6.4 IP). Even though these drops in performance are not as steep and sheer as some of the mountains Bear Grylls scales on Man vs. Wild, the only reason the numbers are even as close as they are is because Clemens spent three seasons in the National League, or as some have put it, the junior varsity league.

Once the National League seasons are removed from the equation, the differences do indeed become slightly larger in favor of Clemens' first fourteen seasons, more evidence as to why the National League is a far less scary place for pitchers, especially since there is no designated hitter there. Instead of the second numbers in the parentheses in the preceding paragraph, the statistics change to 3.71 fielding-independent ERA, 3.27 BB/9 IP, .86 HR/9 IP, and 2.65 K/BB. Therefore, most of Clemens' resurgence in the second part of his career had more to do with the league he pitched in than any increase in his ability to get hitters out.

If there is any way steroids or HGH helped Clemens, it was only to lengthen his career. The supplements certainly helped him in no other way, not even allowing him to maintain the numbers he put up in the earlier part of his career.