Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dartmouth #1?

While most enjoy the crazy world of single-elimination college playoffs, I do not.  I've made that point many times over the past few months in posting.  I'm not a fan of the BCS by any means, but people are far too quick to dismiss it.  Meanwhile, throwing 68 basketball teams or 16 hockey teams into a single elimination system is suppose to choose the best?

This isn't a big lengthy post, but rather one more fragment of evidence showing that the NCAA playoff systems are very flawed.  The NCAA hockey season began only three to four weeks ago depending on which team you follow.  Unlike football or basketball where an undefeated team may last a few months into the season, in college hockey that isn't the case.  Of the 59 teams in Men's Division-1, there is one undefeated team remaining...after only six games.  The Dartmouth Big Green are 5-0-1 on the season, leaving them the only team unscathed from a loss.  On the flip side, the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers are the only team without a win in this young season.

That leaves 57 teams with both at least one win and one loss after less than a month of play.  Clearly Dartmouth is not the top team in the nation, albeit it good.  Yet a postseason system is used that eliminates the best teams in the nation best on one poor game.  Just worth noting that the North Dakota's, Minnesota's, Boston College's, and Notre Dame's already have losses to their names.  It's October so one loss doesn't matter.  In March, one loss to an inferior team and the whole season was for nothing.

Monday, October 22, 2012

BCS Bashfest 2012

I'm sure the annual tradition of putting down the BCS has been going on everywhere since the first set of rankings came out just over a week ago.  It's only natural that when you throw 124 teams into one list of best to worst that only a handful of them will be happy while the rest moan and groan about the results.  As a Rutgers fan, I could not be happier with this year.  Number 15 in the nation, and undefeated at 7-0 is absolutely fantastic.  We're not at the top of the BCS rankings, nor do I think we should be.  Moreover, I'm not expecting my team to be playing for a National Title, but a Big East title and BCS bowl would be great.

Nevertheless, half of the Rutgers online community I frequent is up and arms about the fact that Rutgers did not move up a single spot this week while a certain former Big East school with back to back losses has only fallen to 19th.  From there, the conversation translated into the lack of respect the Big East gets, and how a 12-0 Big East school would not be in the running for a BCS National Title Game berth, and may not even be in the running for one of the four playoff spots next year.  To me, that is nothing short of unsubstantiated paranoia.

First, let's acknowledge that a 12-0 Big East team will certainly not get the level of respect this year as a 12-0 from any other BCS conference.  That simply won't happen.  Not saying whether they should or should not, but simply put, they won't.  Of course, that is assuming a 12-0 team even exists at the end of the season (Rutgers and Louisville are the only remaining unbeatens).  That isn't a surprise really, and falls in line with history over the past decade.  However, the discrepancy is not what some may think.

While the human polls are extremely biased, largely due to the stupidity of preseason polls, the BCS does not exactly force matchups that are not there.  Some like to spew that a 2-loss SEC is more highly regarded than some undefeated teams, or other 1-loss teams.  That really isn't the case except when it comes to BCS busters (and that truly is a while other argument).

In fact, since the BCS began in 1998, only once has a BCS team been chosen for a National Championship berth over another BCS team that had a superior overall record.  Never, ever, ever, ever has an undefeated BCS team been passed over by a 1-loss BCS team.  People seem to think the SEC continues to send overrated teams each season to the National Championship.  They clearly are not overrated when they win every year (not counting the travesty of last year), but more over, they never make it over more deserving Big East, ACC, Pac-12, etc. teams.

The only time a team with an inferior record showed up in a National Championship Game was following the 2007 season when 2-loss LSU went and beat Ohio State.  However, it should be recognized that the only team aside from Ohio State that had 1-loss was Kansas.  Kansas played a far weaker schedule that season, and didn't win the Big 12 or even the Big 12 North that season.  They dodged playing he Big 12 Champion, Oklahoma that year, by losing to Missouri, and thus couldn't play in the Big 12 Championship Game.

All that being said, an undefeated Big East team was passed up recently because of the biased of the polls.  In 2009, the preseason polls didn't rank a single Big East team in the top 25.  Cincinnati ran the table at 12-0, moving up to #3 by the time of the final BCS poll.  However, the Big 12 Championship (between 12-0 Texas and Nebraska) came down to the final play of the game.  Texas won, holding onto a 13-0 record, and played in the National Championship against 13-0 Alabama.  Had a borderline call on the last play of the Big 12 Championship went the other way, Cincinnati would have played Alabama for the National Title.  To be quite honest, Cincinnati deserved to be the team left out in the dark that year.  Instead, they played 12-1 Florida (Florida's only loss came to Alabama in the SEC Championship) in the Sugar Bowl, and were promptly crushed.

The Big East has had other chances, but until they can deliver undefeated teams it is not to be.  In 2006, three teams (Rutgers, Louisville, and West Virginia) went undefeated into November.  The three of them each beat one another, and Rutgers and West Virginia both lost an additional game that month.  Louisville had been 9-0 and #3 in the nation.  A win over Rutgers would have sealed a 12-0 season for them and all but guaranteed a National Title berth.  Ironically, an undefeated Rutgers team that season may have in fact been passed over by a 1-loss SEC team that year because Rutgers began the first four weeks of their season unranked.  Sadly, we are never able to see what could have happened if they ran the table as it may have argued against the whole point here.

A year later in 2007, a 10-1 West Virginia team climbed to #2 in the nation.  People seem to forget the Big East had two teams reach #2 in 2007 (South Florida being the other in mid-October), and everyone almost certainly forgets West Virginia did it in the final week of the season with one loss.  However, an incredible choke job on their part in the final game of the year against Pittsburgh cost them a chance at the title.  In fact, they were ranked above #3 11-1 Ohio State, and the aforementioned 11-1 Kansas team.  However, the loss not only dropped them to #9, it meant they only tied for the Big East Championship (with UConn).

That was followed two years later by the Cincinnati incident I mentioned above.  It proves the point the Big East is in the running for National Championships, but they need to win out to do it.  While a 1-loss may never make it to the title game (2007 was an incredible fluky season), that is often the way it is for many BCS conferences.  One-loss Pac-12 teams have not been considered over the past few years, and last year there was an SEC rematch because Oklahoma State lost their final game of the season.  Point is, the Big East is not that far behind everyone else in that regard.  Should Rutgers or Louisville continue their run at perfection this year, and others fall out from the mix, they could easily be in the conversation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lockouts Add Up...Quick

It seems the NHL and the Players Association are coming closer to reaching an agreement that will not only allow for an NHL season, but allow for a full 82-game NHL season.  Obviously, all hockey fans want an NHL season.  However, it's especially important given that no major sports league in the nation has missed as much time in action as the NHL.  Looking at the past 40 years, here is the percentage of regular season games missed due to strikes, lockouts, etc. for each major league:
  1. NHL - 4.3% (missing 1,698 out of 39,173 possible games)
  2. MLB - 2.4% (missing 2,156 out of 89,262 possible games)
  3. NFL - 1.67% (missing 154 out of 9,192 possible games)
  4. NBA - 1.66% (missing 704 out of 42,230 possible games)
The issue is all the more troubling because all of the NHL's trouble has occurred in the last 20 years due to the lockouts in 1994 and 2004.  Ignore the first two decades from the above mentioned stats, and the percentages are as follows:
  1. NHL - 7.3%
  2. MLB - 3.0%
  3. NBA - 2.9%
  4. NFL - 0.0%
The NFL almost ruined it's recent good run last year, but instead only lost preseason time.  Clearly, the NFL knew the importance that if they wanted to remain the nation's predominant sport, they needed to be on the field.  MLB lost the latter part of it's 1994 season, and the first few weeks of 1995 to their last strke, and it took years to make up for it.  Many fans still have no returned since then.

However, the NHL seems to have no issue with rolling the dice on these situations.  While, the sport may luck out, and not lose any games after all this year (only a delayed start), if they do lose any games, it would be their third lockout resulting in such since 1994.  The last league to lose games to three different lockouts was Major League Baseball, and they were far more spread out (1972, 1981, 1994-5).

The 7.3% of games lost in the last two decades is already poor enough, but just to prove our devastating it would be if the 2012-13 season was indeed lost, here are what the new 20-year percentages would look like:
  1. NHL - 12.4%
  2. MLB - 3.0%
  3. NBA - 2.9%
  4. NFL - 0.0%
Losing 12.4% of NHL games in a 20-year stretch is akin to losing close to 3,000 games total, almost two and a half seasons worth.  Keep it up NHL, and it won't be long at all before Major League Soccer replaces you as one of the main four sports leagues in the country.

Lose One Game and Why Bother?

Here's a random factoid regarding one of the two teams remaining in contention for the American League Pennant.  Prior to 1969, there were no divisions in Major League Baseball, only the American and National Leagues, so the post-season consisted only of the World Series.  It was only with the invention of the East and West divisions in each league that the League Championship Series (ALCS/NLCS) came into existence.  It was only in 1995 (first completed season with three divisions and a wildcard) that the Division Series came into existence.

Over that time, the Detroit Tigers have reached the playoffs six times including this season.  In the three times since 1995 (2006, 11, 12), they have won their division series, meaning they have played in the ALCS, or played for a Pennant in each of those appearances.  Twice, the Tigers would win the American League Pennant, losing three times, and the sixth has obviously yet to be completed.  In the years they won (1984 and 2006), the Tigers swept their opponent in the ALCS.  Maybe by pure coincidence, the Tigers are only a game away from winning their third AL Pennant since playoff expansion began, and are on the verge of sweeping yet again as they are up 3-0 over the New York Yankees.

The Tigers are the only team to sweep an ALCS (having done it twice) since 1990 when the Oakland Athletics completed the feat.  Also, the last team to sweep the ALCS and go on to win the World Series that year was the 1984 Detroit Tigers, although the ALCS was only a best-of-five at the time.  Note that the Atlanta Braves swept the NLCS in 1995 en route to their own World Series victory.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Double Feature

Prior to tonight's playoffs games, there was one walkoff in this relatively young postseason.  It ca:me in Game 2 of the American League Divisional Series between the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics, when Don Kelly of the Tigers hit a sacrifice fly to score Omar Infante, helping his team to win 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth.  It is worth noting that despite scoring a run and driving in an RBI in that game, Kelly is considered to have gone 0-for-0 in the game.  As a pinch runner in the 8th inning for Delmon Young, he scored from third on a wild pitch prior to his heroics in the 9th.

In any event, tonight, two more walkoff wins were added to the list of memorable playoff moments.  First, Raul Ibanez hit not one, but two solo home runs to help lead the New York Yankees over the Baltimore Orioles.  His first was a tying home run in the bottom of the ninth before he repeated his feat in the bottom of the twelfth to win it.  Later in the night, the A's capped off a three-run ninth inning to come from behind in not only the game, but the series (now tied 2-2) on an RBI single.

These were the 129th and 130th walkoff wins in MLB playoff history.  However, it is only the sixth time that multiple playoff walkoffs have occurred on the same day.  Here is a list of the other five:

October 11, 1986:
  • New York Mets over the Houston Astros 6-5
  • California Angels over the Boston Red Sox 4-3
October 1, 1998:
  • Atlanta Braves over the Chicago Cubs 2-1
  • Houston Astros over the San Diego Padres 5-4
  October 18, 2004:
  • Boston Red Sox over the New York Yankees 5-4
  • Houston Astros over the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0
October 5, 2007:
  • Boston Red Sox over the Los Angeles Angels 6-3
  • Cleveland Indians over the New York Yankees 2-1
 October 19, 2009:
  • Los Angels Angels over the New York Yankees 5-4
  • Philadelphia Phillies over the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-4

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Blame Game Gone Wrong

This post may come with a little bit of a gag reflex, but I'm going to try to power through it anyway.  There are five current New York Yankees who have played at least three full postseasons with the Yankees (2009-2012).  Those players current sport these stat lines (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS) since 2009 in the playoffs, along with how many games they started over the period:
  1. .261/.388/.486/.875 (31 GS)
  2. .262/.316/.508/.824 (31 GS)
  3. .307/.367/.453/.819 (31 GS)
  4. .193/.295/.316/.611 (29 GS)
  5. .160/.262/.321/.583 (30 GS)
They are ordered there based on the highest to lowest OPS, and more than likely the best to worst overall.  Maybe you could make an argument that the second and third ranked ones should be swapped, but there is no question the best line is at the top, and the worst two are at the bottom.

Now let me preface this next part by pointing out how much I despise most of these players, but none more than Alex Rodriguez.  Of course, when you link actual players to these numbers, you get the following:
  1. Alex Rodriguez
  2. Robinson Cano
  3. Derek Jeter
  4. Mark Teixeira
  5. Nick Swisher
Ironically, the majority of the attention that is on the Yankees right now is focused on Alex Rodriguez's dismal series...all two games of it, and to be fair, if I only looked at 2011 (Yankees only played five games), the numbers would be very skewed against Rodriguez.  Clearly, Rodriguez is on the down slope of his steroid-induced career.  He is 36 after all, and some people seem to think it is a mystery that he isn't in the running for 40 HRs a year.  I would focus on the positive, such that he still reached base at a .353 clip this season, good for putting him in the top half of OBPs in the Yankees lineup.

I know Rodriguez commands a ridiculous $30 million a year, and therefore the focus is on him; however, people seem to forget that a guy like Teixeira makes well over $20 million a year, and Swisher commands more than $10 million despite acting like a double agent come each October.

Rodriguez is past is prime, but acting as if he is the one holding the Yankees back is starting to become laughable.  Should Rodriguez be moved in the lineup?  He certainly shouldn't be batting in the middle of the order for the Yankees.  Nonetheless, should there not be more focus on guys like Swisher who have proven year after year they can't see the ball in the postseason?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Other Bayou State Team

Props to Louisiana Tech.  So often in college football, we spend the first half of the season only paying attention to the undefeated teams that we know will matter, that we fail to acknowledge the great runs some lesser teams may have.

The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs are very unlikely to go undefeated this season, and more than likely will lose their first game this weekend to a ranked SEC team (Texas A&M).  After all, there high scoring offense, averaging 53.2 points per game, is very much countered by no defense that makes each game look like an Arena Football League.  Nonetheless, they are 5-0, and despite playing in the lowly MAC, they have two wins on the road against BCS teams (Illinois and Virginia).

There success was rewarded this week when the AP Poll voted them #23 in the nation.  This is the highest Louisiana Tech has ever been ranked, and only the second week they have ever reached that level.  The previous time came in 1999 when the Bulldogs narrowly reached #25 in the nation.  After losing their first two games to #1 Florida State (eventual National Champion) and #6 Texas A&M, Louisiana Tech rallied to win 8 games in a row, reaching the #25 ranking for the final week of the regular season.  Unfortunately for them, they were blown out in their final game that year, losing to a mediocre USC team.  Perhaps this year, the Bulldogs can find a little more magic and keep their great start alive.

Remaining Undefeated FBS Teams in 2012 (16):
  1. Alabama 5-0
  2. Cincinnati 4-0
  3. Florida 5-0
  4. Kansas State 5-0
  5. Louisiana Tech 5-0
  6. Louisville 5-0
  7. Mississippi State 5-0
  8. Notre Dame 5-0
  9. Ohio 6-0
  10. Ohio State 6-0
  11. Oregon 6-0
  12. Oregon State 4-0
  13. Rutgers 5-0 
  14. South Carolina 6-0
  15. Texas-San Antonio 5-0
  16. West Virginia 5-0
Remaining Winless FBS Teams in 2012 ():
  1. Eastern Michigan 0-5
  2. Massachusetts 0-6
  3. Southern Miss. 0-5
  4. Tulane 0-5

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Overrated Seminoles and ACC Mediocrity

It's October which means it's that usual time of the year where we find out just how overrated the ACC is in football...yet again.  Year after year, the voters seem insistent on throwing as many teams at the top 25 in the preseason to see how many can stick.  More often than not, those teams do not stick, and those who do, rarely are rated as high as they were in the preseason.

Since the ACC has come to its current existence (2005), the conference has had on average 3.5 teams ranked each preseason.  This year, they had only 3, although all of them were ranked within the top 16 to begin the year.  Now, a mere six weeks into the season, the ACC is sporting a pathetic 11-15 record against out-of-conference FBS teams.  For comparison, the Big East which more often than not is mediocre (although consistently rated far worse) is 12-9 on the year.

This includes losses such as Preseason #16 Virginia Tech who lost handily to Pitt, only two weeks after Pitt lost to Youngstown State.  If anything, Pitt is doing an excellent job of proving to everyone else that they will fit in the most overrated conference just fine next year.  In addition, today we saw Boston College lost to Army, an Army program that was not beaten, but rather run over by Stony Brook University just last week.

The catch is, the ACC gets so overrated in the Preseason polls that when an upset does occur, it is magnified far too much.  Props given to the North Carolina State Wolfpack tonight for defeating the Florida State Seminoles.  However, make not mistake, these Seminoles were not the 3rd best team in the nation as their ranking this week would indicate.  They merely took their exaggerated preseason ranking (7th), and passed the couple of top ten teams that have lost.  However, now the voters will see NC State beat the #3 team in the nation this week, and they will likely be ranked close to 20th come Sunday afternoon.

Florida State is perhaps the epitome of being overrated in the college football world.  I don't feel that people understand that what FSU did in the 1990s should have no baring on what they do two decades later.  In fact, since the current ACC setup came around in 2005, the Seminoles have been ranked in the preseason AP poll every season but once (2008):

2005 - 14th
2006 - 11th
2007 - 19th
2009 - 18th
2010 - 20th
2011 - 6th
2012 - 7th

In only one of those seasons did they even manage to remain ranked as high as they began the season:

2005 - 23rd (8-5)
2006 - Unranked (7-6)
2007 - Unranked (7-6)
2009 - Unranked (7-6)
2010 - 17th (10-4)
2011 - 23rd (9-4)
2012 - ?????

Would it really be a big shock if they lost five games on the year and finished the season ranked in the low 20s?  The only purpose Florida State has served in the ACC since 2005 is to inflate the rankings of the many teams who continue to beat them each season.

The ridiculousness that is the overrating of these teams doesn't end with Florida State, they are simply the most frequently occurring.  Since 2005 (not including this year), the ACC has had 25 teams ranked in the preseason.  Of those 25 teams, only 5 have seen their ranking improve over the course of a season, and 1 has stayed the same.

That leaves 19 of 25 (76%), including the five FSU examples above, that have finished the season ranked worse than where they began.  Some programs included in this are four times by Virginia Tech, and likely a fifth this year.  Miami has seen the preseason polls three times since 2005, losing 8 spots one year, and finding themselves unranked the two other seasons.  Four appearances combined by North Carolina, Virginia, and Wake Forest during the preseason has never seen any of them hang around until the end of the year, and all of them lost no less than five games each.

It truly is a stale story at this point, but time and time again, the ACC has proven that it is nothing more than a mediocre conference.  As a fan of a Big East team, I've never thought much of anything about the Big East itself.  It is middle of the road at best.  Nonetheless, despite the ACC's constant raids, and the Big East refueling with C-USA members, history has proven that the Big East consistently has been on par if not better than the ACC.  Therefore, it would only make sense to conclude that the ACC is nothing more than a mediocre mid-major conference sporting "name" state schools over directional schools.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Computers Don't Kill Polls, People Kill Polls II

Last month I called out Ray Ratto of the Comcast Sports Bay Area for not simply ranking Texas State (who had only played one game at the FBS level t the time) in his top 25, but for ranking them 16th overall.  It was a ridiculously pathetic move to try to gain attention in my book.  Ratto is known for doing this on a regular basis, and I simply have to wonder why he is even allowed to vote in this poll when his only goal seems to be chaos.

This week, I noticed he did it again, and I find it only fair to bring attention to it despite it being in favor of my alum Rutgers Scarlet Knights.  Rutgers has found its way into the bottom fifth of the AP, and probably rightfully so, 22nd/21st, in the two major polls.  Nonetheless, I see that Ratto is out there to shake things up again.  He currently has the Knights sitting 12th in his poll, a position that no one in their right mind could suggest at this point in the season.  No one else has them higher than 17th (and that is a local New Jersey writer at least).

Again, I strongly stress the point that the computers don't screw up the system so much as the humans who vote in it.  CFEC anyone?  The College Football Electoral College?  Just a thought.

More Playoff Teams = Bad for Competition

First, my apologies for disappearing for a month.  A combination of a lot of travel, work, and a laptop that passed away led me away from here.  Now that things are getting back to normal, I hope to find more time to devote to here.

One thing I've claimed in the past, and continue to stick by, is that large playoff formats are bad for competition.  The NHL and NBA allowing more than half of the league into the postseason does little more than create chaos rather than reward teams who played well over the 82-game season as opposed to a hot streak in the spring.  Even in college football, I'm a fan of a smaller playoff, four to eight teams at the very most, because I've never heard any sort of argument as to why the 12th ranked team should have a shot at a National Title merely because they won the C-USA.

Over the years, baseball was the one exception to the rule.  For everything that people don't like about baseball, I believe they get more right than wrong.  No salary cap?  It hurts, but notice which league the lockouts have occurred in over the past 14 months (NFL, NBA, NHL).  Nevertheless, that's a post for another day (and I promise there will be one on that).  Prior to this season, baseball had been allowing eight teams to reach the playoffs each season out of thirty.  I've never been a big fan of the wildcard, but I can understand the need for a multiple of four when it comes to teams.

This year, Bud Selig in his continued attempt to make a name for himself with no regard for the game, added two more teams to ten.  Of course, fans of this move will point out it is a one-game series (played today for both the American and National Leagues), and it leaves the winners in the same position as the previous wild card teams.  If there was a Congressional bill that declared it would remain this way for the next century, I could live with it, but sadly I feel this is just the beginning of expanding the playoff system.  Look at the history of every other league, and you will see the expansion just builds off of itself.

To be fair, the now 10 teams out of 30 (1/3 obviously), still make it the smallest playoff field of any of the major leagues.  The NFL is the next smallest at 12 out of 32 teams.  However, while fans in St. Louis or Los Angeles or Milwaukee might enjoy seeing their team play meaningful games in late September, fact of the matter is that they didn't deserve to be.

There is always going to be the argument that it makes for a better playoff race in September, but does it really?  In another decade, some will argue that if we added two more wild card spots, all the teams above .500 could be in the race.  The Major League Baseball season is 162 games for a reason.  It isn't meant to cater to every average team.  The only grueling part about the sport of baseball is the length of the season, so finishing a 162-game season above everyone else should be followed by a reward like the post-season.

An article on Yahoo by a former detractor of the new system has given praise to it now, saying it made the race far more interesting.  I could not agree less.  Let's look at the National League first.  Suffice to say there was not much to be said for the last week of the MLB season.  The Los Angeles Dodgers trailed the St. Louis Cardinals by three games, and they cut the lead to two.  That is the only additional excitement this new wild card added to the NL this season.  If it was not there, the playoffs would have been locked up one week earlier with the Braves grabbing the last spot, and they still gave the Washington Nationals a little bit of a chase for the division title.  Therefore, I think we can conclude the wild card did nothing here.

In the AL on the other hand, no one knew who was making the playoffs until this past weekend, BUT that did not have to do with the new wild card.  Ironically, the new format played no role at all in this equation except for keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in the race longer.  The wild card teams of the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers will face off today in a one-game series.  If there was no additional wild card team, these teams having already tied in the standings...would have faced off today in a one-game series.  IT MADE NO DIFFERENCE TO THE OUTCOME!

The article points out the great races in the AL this year, but they were for division titles and had no baring on the new wild card spot.  All three division titles in the AL were decided this past weekend, with or without the extra spot!

For anyone who might shrug this year off as an anomaly, does one recall the end of the 2011 MLB season?  Last year may have been the best playoff races since the wild card was introduced in 1995.  On the final day of the season, the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays capped off amazing comebacks on the final day of the season to beat the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox. It was arguably the most terrific September for baseball I recall, and that's coming from a Mets fan who saw his team finish with 85 losses.  Introduce a second wild card for last year, and the entire month would have been ruined because rather than a playoff race, you have all of the aforementioned teams in the playoffs, including those who choked on their way out.

For a more analytical point of view, let's look at it this way.  If we ignore the National League division winners (Washington, Cincinnati, and San Francisco), and look just at the remaining NL teams, we can get an idea of how much better the Braves were over the Cardinals (the two wild card teams).  After all, the MLB season is 162 games, and the best teams compared to the worst ones only win about 30% more of their games.

Atlanta: 94-68 (.580)
St. Louis:  88-74 (.543)
Houston:  55-107 (.340)

Let's suggest the entire season was replayed without the three division winners.  Maybe the records wouldn't be quite the same, but they should be close.  After all, we're taking the best team from each division out, so all the teams should do slightly better.

If we determine the best remaining team (Atlanta Braves) is 100% better than than the last place team (Houston Astros), we can say 39 games is the exact difference between the first and last place teams, and it was here.  The Cardinals finished six games back of the Braves.  Assuming the Braves are 100% better than the Astros by record alone, we can decide that (6/39 = .154) the Braves are 15.4% better than the Cardinals.

That number probably does not seem like a lot, but in baseball, that 15.4% is huge.  If the best team each year went 162-0, and the worst went 0-162 (think about football where undefeated records and winless season are not impossible), that would put the Cardinals an entire 25 games back of the Braves.

For you NFL fans, in 2007, the New England Patriots went 16-0 on the year, and the Indianapolis Colts went 13-3.  Would anyone have really suggested the Colts were as good as the Patriots following the regular season that year?  The difference between those two teams were merely 18% when you look at their record.

The point is, in baseball, all the teams generally finish within a winning percentage of .325-.625, a small margin that when played over 162 games looks only slightly larger, so when a team finishes six games back in a playoff race, do they really deserve a shot at the team that finished six games ahead?  Making matters worst, should a series ever be decided by one game when a team consists of a five-man rotation?  The Cardinals only need one Cy Young candidate to pitch one good game, and they will have passed a team that truly outdid them over the course of a season.

The answer to the above mentioned questions is a simple no.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Computers Don't Kill Polls, People Kill Polls

It always annoys me when people suggest the Bowl Championship Series is flawed because "computers decide championships".  The computers are far from perfect, mainly because the BCS wants to keep it that way.  For instance, they don't take into account the score of any games, only the results (win or loss).  However, computers only make up one fraction (1/3) of the equation while the Coaches' USAToday Poll and Harris Interactive Poll (both human polls) each make up another third.

For as much as the computer rankings take the heat, they really deserve it the least.  The computers are not biased towards teams or conferences.  They rely on the far more sound mathematics than the human based polls.  Never mind that the USAToday is filled out either by coaches who don't watch many games (because they are coaching their own), or graduate assistants who only have so much other responsibility.  The Harris Poll is made up of a bunch of former players, coaches, media personalities, and other randoms who have admitted in the past to being apathetic to voting.  Time after time, the system obviously fails, but it is the computer who still take the brunt of the insults.

This week, the biggest fault in the human polls goes to a component no longer associated with the BCS, but is equally regarded: the AP Poll.  This poll made up of journalists (because who better to make decisions in this country than journalists?) is independent of others, but still equally flawed and biased.  When looking at the polls each week, I always like to see the additional teams to receive votes that didn't crack the top 25.  This week, not only was I shocked when I saw the Texas State Bobcats listed, but that they received 10 points in the poll (good for 34th overall).

My suspicions were that this was one voter who voted Texas State high in the poll (16th) versus a couple of voters having a nervous breakdown and voting for them.  Sure enough, I was right, and the culprit was Ray Ratto of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.  The only part that surprised me is that he had been writing in the Bay Area for over 30 years with little ties to the state of Texas or Texas State.

For those who aren't sure if they've heard of Texas State before, you're correct.  This is only the Bobcats first full season at the FBS level, essentially making this past week their first official game.  Yes, they did upset the Houston Cougars, but Houston is not a highly regarded team by any means this year.  This isn't an Appalachian State, North Dakota State, or James Madison either that is joining the higher ranks.  This is a team that last year as an FCS finished with a 6-6 record.

Based on his assessment, the 1-0 FBS Bobcats are a better team than Arkansas, Wisconsin, Michigan, West Virginia, and six other Big 12 teams that inhabit that same region.  Texas State isn't his only hiccup, just the most obvious one to someone who wasn't looking for a mistake.  Of the 64 other AP voters, no one ranked Florida State (3rd), Michigan State (5th), Nebraska (10th), and Notre Dame (15th) any higher than he did, not to mention Texas (9th) who only one voted higher.  In addition, each of the other 64 voters voted West Virginia as 15th or better, yet Ratto is by far the lowest vote at a pathetic 24th.  He is one of only four not to vote for Michigan this week, and voted LSU (7th) and Arkansas (17th), far below where almost all other voters had them.

Ratto's poll alone will have little affect on the grand scheme of things, and hopefully he receives enough nasty emails that point out why he should not be allowed to vote.  However, this is not an event that won't happen again.  There will be many more horrible ballots just this year.  If it hasn't already, it should become apparent that the biggest problem in the college football system is not the computers, but the human polls.

Class of Tony Banks or Kevin Kolb?

NFL Draft Classes vary from season to season for all positions, but no position is analyzed greater than that of the Quarterback.  My goal here wasn't to look simply at how much NFL quarterback talent came out of each draft.  The 2012 of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III can not and should not be measured against the class of 1983 (John Elway, Jim Kelly, and Dan Marino) until the careers of all those 2012 QBs have come to an end.

I'm more interested in the flip side of the equation as in which draft classes were so terrible that simply no one was competitive enough to remain in the NFL as a fixture.  A recent "failure" of a class would likely be the 2007 class.  Most notable for being a flop was the #1 overall pick in the draft, JaMarcus Russell.  However, the disappointments do not end there.  Of the 11 QBs taken in that draft, only one remains as an NFL starter, Kevin Kolb of the Arizona Cardinals, and even he is considered a significant disappointment.  John Beck and Tyler Thigpen as backup QBs on the Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills respectively.  Meanwhile, the top two, Russell and Brady Quinn haven't seen an NFL field since 2009, and four others haven't seen it since 2010.

In this quick study, QB Rating was used to grade how bad each draft class was.  I say "how bad" because itt isn't a great measure to determine how good some classes were.  Of the 32 years analyzed (1980-2011), no one would argue that one of the very best if not the best was 1983.  However, by QB rating, it ranks only 8th overall in the past 32 years.  Instead, it was beat out by a far lesser class like 1991.  The rating for 1991 is higher because a lone player, Brett Favre, weighed the class by himself since so many others didn't last long in the NFL.  Similar results can be found for 1998 where Peyton Manning and Matt Hasselbeck far out weigh the poor play of Ryan Leaf and Jonathan Quinn.

While it might not determine the best classes, I feel it does a good job of pointing out the classes that had little to no NFL talent and that is really the goal here.  The 1991 class might have been poor overall, but an NFL fixture like Favre was discovered.  Most classes will generally find one NFL starting QB that stands the test of time for seven to ten years at least.  One last catch is that these QB ratings are for the entire careers of the players in those draft classes.  Therefore, the more recent ones, think 2008-11, are going to likely vary significantly in the years to come.  Meanwhile, the previous ten years will likely have little to no adjustments while prior to that will likely never change due to the majority of those players having already retired.

The career QB ratings of each draft class can be found in this chart with the most notable classes labeled individually:
You'll notice the first couple seasons were rather poor.  In fact, 1980 and 1982 were two of three worst seasons on record.  However, as mentioned, things rebounded the following season with the tremendous class of 1983.  In addition to the well known names of Elway, Marino, and Kelly, you had solid to decent contributors like Ken O'Brien and Tony Eason.  The decade following the 1983 draft was rather steady in terms of production.  You had a high point with the aforementioned 1991 draft including Brett Favre, and a low point in 1986 where Jim Everett and Mark Rypien were the best the college world had to offer.  Note that in the mid 80s, the NFL had competition with the USFL.

If was after this 11-year steady period that the draft classes took an unexpected turn for the worst.  Between 1994-97, three horrendous classes were produced.  The lone exception, 1995, was still worse than each of the class from 1983-93 with the exception of 1986.  Most of the seasons still produced NFL regulars.  Names like Trent Dilfer, Steve McNair, Kerry Collins, and Jake Plummer before his sudden retirement were long time starting QBs.  The exception was in 1996 where the NFL Draft produced...Tony Banks?  Bobby Hoying?

The 1996 class is definitely the low point.  Banks is the only player to throw for more than 10,000 yards in his career (15,315).  Danny Kannell is behind him with 5,129 yards. To compare, Cam Newton is already at 4,051 yards in his career following only his rookie season.  Sam Bradford has eclipsed that mark already in only two seasons.  The percentage of passes completed from that draft class is a lowly 53.4%, second worst only to 1980.  One piece of trivia, Banks set the record for most fumbles as a rookie in 1996 before having the mark eclipsed by Kerry Collins and Daunte Culpepper in the future.

Despite how bad things got through the four years, the more remarkable part is the rebound from 1998-2001.  Those four seasons make up four of the seven best totals.  Again, not a great measuring stick for "the best", but it shows the remarkable improvement compared to the previous four seasons.  Since then, results have been extremely variable year to year.  2002 was among  the poorer seasons led by David Garrard and Joey Harrington followed only two years later in 2004 by one of the very best.

More recently, we've been plagued by the 2007 class, and to be honest, the 2010 class.  Sure there was Sam Bradford who had a great rookie season, but his sophmore campaign was as poor as his health.  He certainly isn't terrible, but thus far has produced middle of the road results while being the only remaining starter from a group including Tim Tebow, Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy.

The 2011 class has showed far more promise in their rookie seasons, and it will be interesting to see if they can take that any further this year.  In fact, the 2011 draft class nearly surpassed the 2010 class in half as many seasons.  They could pass the terribly 2007 class by the end of this season.

Notable Quarterbacks By Draft Class:

1980:  Marc Wilson (Oakland Raiders), Mark Malone (Pittsburgh Steelers), Eric Hipple (Detroit Lions)

1982:  Jim McMahon (Chicago Bears), Mike Pagel (Baltimore Colts)

1983:  John Elway (Baltimore Colts), Jim Kelly (Buffalo Bills), Tony Eason (New England Patriots), Ken O'Brien (New York Jets), Dan Marino (Miami Dolphins)

1991:  Todd Marinovich (Los Angeles Raiders), Brett Favre (Atlanta Falcons)

1994:  Trent Dilfer (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Gus Frerotte (Washington Redskins)

1995:  Steve McNair (Houston Oilers), Kerry Collins (Carolina Panthers), Kordell Stewart (Pittsburgh Steelers)

1996:  Tony Banks (St. Louis Rams)

1997:  Jake Plummer (Arizona Cardinals), Danny Wuerffel (New Orleans Saints)

1998:  Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts), Ryan Leaf (San Diego Chargers), Brian Griese (Denver Broncos), Matt Hasselbeck (Green Bay Packers)

2000:  Chad Pennington (New York Jets), Marc Bulger (New Orleans Saints), Tom Brady (New England Patriots)

2004:  Eli Manning (San Diego Chargers), Philip Rivers (New York Giants), Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers), Matt Schaub (Atlanta Falcons)

2007:  JaMarcus Russell (Oakland Raiders), Brady Quinn (Cleveland Browns), Kevin Kolb (Philadelphia Eagles), Trent Edwards (Buffalo Bills)

2008:  Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons), Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens), Chad Henne (Miami Dolphins)

2011:  Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers), Jake Locker (Tennessee Titans), Christian Ponder (Minnesota Vikings), Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Competition vs. Punching Bags

Now that nearly all teams have completed one game of the 2012 season, I think it is worth it to mention the teams who consistently schedule a real team for this time of year, and not simply a punching bag.  Looking through past schedules, there are only a dozen teams across the nation who have scheduled a BCS team to open their schedule consistently over the past three schedules.  Not surprisingly, only one of these programs is an actual BCS program itself, with the majority of teams being from the lower level MAC, Sun Belt, and Conference-USA.  Despite the low percentage of teams that consistently face these teams to open the year, it often seems worth it since I feel these games often provide the best chance for an upset.

For instance, Boise State has done this for years, and has come out on top more often than not by preparing more during the off-season for that one game.  Boise State has faced a BCS team the past four seasons, and has won three of those meetings.  Unfortunately for them, their winning streak came to an end this weekend when they lost as Michigan State.  Their wins included Oregon in 2009, Virginia Tech in 10, and Georgia in 11.

There are only two programs that currently have opened the season against BCS opponents, and hold a perfect record while doing so.  The longest winning streak is held by BYU who like Boise State went into their four consecutive opener against a BCS opponent.  They defeated the Washington State Cougars 30-6 on Friday after seasons of winnings against Oklahoma in 09, Washington in 10, and Ole Miss in 11.

The other program on this list sporting a winning streak is the aforementioned, single BCS team, Northwestern of the Big 10.  Their streak is only at three games currently with wins against Vanderbilt in 10, Boston College in 11, and most recently Syracuse.  On a side note, LSU beat a non-BCS team in North Texas, but had a streak running into this season at 3-0 themselves including wins over Washington, North Carolina, and Oregon.

It is worth noting that the majority of teams who consistently open against a BCS teams lose.  Western Michigan currently holds the longest streak, and is 0-8 over that time.  Memphis and Western Kentucky both snapped their streak of opening against BCS teams, but were 1-7 and 0-6 respectively.  Miami (OH) and San Jose State are 0-5 and 0-4 themselves.

Props to the teams who consistently schedule these tougher teams, and then are competitive with them each season.  Added props to teams like BYU, Northwestern, and until this year Boise State and LSU who consistently beat these teams, particularly Northwestern and LSU who earn wins that really do not count much to their overall season in the grand scheme of things.  As for BYU and their streak, the next two seasons they have Texas scheduled for Week 2 of the season with no opponent designated for Week 1.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Five Year Drought Ends

May as well find something college football related for the start of the season today.  Michigan has spent 489 weeks ranked in the top 10 according to the AP Poll put out weekly throughout college football season.  As college football season kicks off, Michigan will run out of the tunnel as the #8 team in the nation according to the AP.  However, it has been a number of years since Michigan kicked off with a top ten ranking.  For those who don't remember, the last time they held a top ten position, it was five years ago heading into the 2007 season.  Plenty more likely remember that they lost their spot by losing to Appalachian State in their opener.  Despite going from #5 to unranked, they clawed back to #18 to finish the season.  This season they won't begin with the reigning FCS National Champion, but rather the reigning BCS National Champion, #2 Alabama.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Guys Behind Armstrong

A couple days ago, the United States Anti-Doping Agency officially declared that Lance Armstrong would be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles upon Armstrong dropping his legal fight.  With all the attention that has been focused on Armstrong, I felt it was worth mentioning the names who finished second each year from 1999-2005 since they probably should have finished first.

1999:  Alex Zulle (Switzerland)
2000:  Jan Ullrich (Germany)
2001:  Jan Ullrich (Germany)
2002:  Joseba Beloki (Spain)
2003:  Jan Ullrich (Germany)
2004:  Andreas Kloden (Germany)
2005:  Ivan Basso (Italy)

Removing Armstrong from the equation would mean Jacques Anquetil (France), Bernard Hinault (France), and Miguel Indurain (Spain) lead the all time list for Tour de France title wins with five apiece.

Before giving out too much credit to the riders above, it is worth mentioning that in 2005, Jan Ullrich finished third behind Armstrong and Ivan Basso.  However, doping charges have since removed his result from the race.  While he did finish second behind Armstrong numerous times previously, the only result that has been eliminated is that of 2005.  I have no opinion on his three "wins" as I really no little about him and the sport.  The one thing I do know is that it seems to make Major League Baseball look clean.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

2001 MLB Dispersal Draft

This event might not be remembered by many, largely because it never happened.  In November 2001, following poor attendance from a number of Major League Baseball franchises, commissioner Bud Selig made the mistake that offseason meetings would discuss the idea of downsizing, or contraction of certain teams.  It was leaked shortly thereafter that while a number of teams were rumored, that the four teams closest to the chopping block were: the Montreal Expos, Anaheim Angels, Florida Marlins, and Minnesota Twins.  Ultimately, the final vote was to eliminate two teams, the Expos and Twins.

An injunction filed in court made sure the Twins had to play their 2002 season in the Metrodome, and MLB unable to eliminate only team dropped the idea.  No contraction took place.  Instead, the a trade deadline-like deal went down where the owner of the Expos, Jeffrey Loria, sold the team to Major League Baseball.  Next the Marlins owner, John Henry, sold his team to Loria, and Henry bought the Boston Red Sox.  MLB tried to sell the Expos before ultimately relocating them to Washington D.C., and renaming them the Nationals.

Let's pretend for a second that contraction did take place following the 2001 season.  Overnight, the four clubs of the Expos, Twins, Angels, and Marlins would cease to exist.  In my opinion, the most intriguing part of the decision would have been the players on those four clubs.  Most likely, a dispersal draft of some sort would have been setup after many long and tedious negotiations between MLB and the Players Association.

This post is to highlight the hypothetical first round of that draft where the 26 remaining MLB clubs would have their pick of the players left over from the four (not-)to-be-forgotten teams.  In an effort to keep this a little more simple, I'm limiting the players selected to those on the 2001 team rosters.  I don't recall the prospects much at all from those years, and not about to guess on them.  The draft order used is simply the winning percentage of the remaining 26 teams in reverse (slightly different than the 2002 MLB draft).

1.  Tampa Bay Devil Rays:  Vladimir Guerrero (RF) of the Montreal Expos
The first pick of the draft seems obvious enough, but leads to one very big assumption: that the Devils Rays are willing to look past his salary to get one of the best players in baseball at the time.  Guerrero was on the edge of a 40/40 season in 2001, and even the Devils Rays very cheap ownership of the time would have seen his $8 million price tag as profitable if marketed correctly.  2002 was the worst of many bad seasons for Tampa Bay.  However, would it have been with Guerrero hitting behind Randy Winn, Aubrey Huff, and a young Carl Crawford?

2.  Pittsburgh Pirates:  Javier Vazquez (SP) of the Montreal Expos
With the first pick, I made the unsafe assumption that the Devil Rays would spend a little money.  With the second pick, and I make the even less safe assumption that the Pirates won't do anything stupid.  I remember living in the Pittsburgh area at the time of this, and multiple people having an infatuation with Ryan Dempster at the time.  While Dempster will certainly be picked later in this mock draft, I really see no contest between the two.  The Pirates always seem to love to draft pitching, and had just come off a 100-loss season where they dealt a young, struggling Jason Schmidt at the deadline.   Todd Ritchie would be dealt later that offseason, and Ron Villone would be the 2002 Opening Day starter for the Buccos.  They still had some decent young hitters with Brian Giles, Aramis Ramirez, and Jason Kendall.  Drafting an ace for the team would have given the fans more reason to show up at new PNC Park, and Vazquez was the best guy out there.

3.  Baltimore Orioles:  Troy Glaus (3B) of the Anaheim Angels
This one seems like a good safe bet.  Glaus is among the best hitters in this pool and plays third base.  The Orioles had just waved goodbye to Cal Ripken Jr. as he retired.  What better replacement as a star of the team than a 24 year old who just hit 88 home runs over the two previous seasons.  The Orioles desperately needed help on both sides of the field for 2002, and Glaus would have been a big help.  Meanwhile, it meant they could have traded Tony Batista, one of most overrated in the game, and kept Melvin Mora out of the infield where he did more harm than good.  It is hard not to choose a pitcher for the O's, but maybe this keeps them from doing something along the lines of signing Javy Lopez for 2004.

4.  Kansas City Royals:  Brad Penny (SP) of the Florida Marlins
The Royals are one of those teams that you can hardly go wrong with a hitter or pitcher.  However, given that they still had a young Mike Sweeney and Carlos Beltran in their lineup, not to mention an under 40-year old Raul Ibanez, I felt pitching was the biggest need.  With Vazquez off the board, I think the best remaining choice is Brad Penny.  The Angels and Twins really didn't have a ton of pitching depth at this time, and the Expos didn't have much more than Vazquez.  The Marlins on the other hand had a very promising rotation of Dempster, Penny, A.J. Burnett, and Matt Clement, not to mention some guy who only made a few appearances named Josh Beckett.  Beckett didn't have a track record to warrant such a high pick.  Penny was only 23 in 2001, a year younger than Dempster and Burnett, and had just come off a better season than the two of them.  A nice cheap, young, quality arm that had ace potential.

5.  Detroit Tigers:  Torii Hunter (CF) of the Minnesota Twins
The Tigers were beginning their spiral towards their terrible 2003 record at the time.  No one player remaining here is going to right that ship by themselves, but anything would help.  Given their lack of a lineup, I think an everyday guy is the way to go.  Roger Cedeno who batted leadoff and played centerfield left for the Mets.  All of their pop came from Dimitri Young and Bobby Higginson (whatever happened to him?).  Hunter was only just played his first full season in the bigs in 2001, but showed plenty of promise at the plate in addition to being able to play center as well as anyone that year.  He wouldn't have kept the Tigers from 100 losses in 2003, but it would have been a start.

6.  Cincinnati Reds:  A.J. Burnett (SP) of the Florida Marlins
Remember that Marlins rotation I mentioned?  Burnett in my opinion is the easy second choice at this point in time.  He is the same age as Ryan Dempster (who was traded by the Marlins to the Reds the following trade deadline), but already was showing more upside by 2001.  The Reds had Ken Griffey Jr., Sean Casey, and in 2002 a young power hitter named Adam Dunn would come on the scene.  That start power didn't translate to the pitching staff where Jimmy Haynes led Elmer Dessens and Chris Reitsma.  Adding another young pitcher to that staff wouldn't have made it dominate, but would have given them a better chance at finding an ace for a franchise that was longing for one.  Furthermore, he cost the Reds little in the way of salary.

7.  Milwaukee Brewers:  Ryan Dempster (SP) of the Florida Marlins
As much as I've put Dempster down as not being much to his counterparts, I still think he goes fairly early given that he was leading a rotation at age 24.  He still had plenty of upside.  The Brewers, much like the Reds, had a number of guys who could hit the ball, but a young staff that had trouble keeping the ball in the park.  Ben Sheets would eventually develop out of the group, but everyone else seemed to flounder.  Dempster gives them more upside for the Richie Sexson led lineup, and completes the dismantling of the top of the Marlins rotation.  Like Penny and Burnett, Dempster comes for a low salary.

8.  Colorado Rockes:  Cliff Floyd (LF) of the Florida Marlins
With pitchers flying off the board early, and the Rockies having invested in Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle who the clearly held out hope for, it only makes sense to grab one of the better hitters available.  The Rockies had an MVP-caliber Todd Helton, an aging Larry Walker who could still hit the ball, and a young Juan Pierre.  Those three guys followed by a very potent Cliff Floyd who would replace Ron Gant in left field would have made a great top half of the lineup.  Best of all, Floyd came pretty cheap.

9.  Texas Rangers:  Jarrod Washburn (SP) of the Anaheim Angels
The next two picks I deem as gambles, but it is a nice way to say these guys never lived up to their hype.  Granted, trying to do this without considering the future numbers of these players makes this difficult.  The Rangers desperately needed pitching heading into 2002.  They had a tremendous lineup with Alex Rodriguez, Ivan Rodriguez, Michael Young, Rafael Palmeiro, and would later sign Juan Gonzalez who had a tremendous year with the Cleveland Indians.  Meanwhile, the ace of their staff, Rick Helling had just posted a 5.17 ERA.  A young Jarrod Washburn seems like a gamble they would need to make here, and doesn't cost too much.

10.  San Diego Padres:  Eric Milton (SP) of the Minnesota Twins
The Padres are another gamble, and you could certainly argue against this one.  Like the Rangers, they had a nice lineup with Phil Nevin (41 HRs) and Ryan Klesko (30 HRs) in 2001.  Bubba Trammell and Ron Gant were nice complements to them.  The pitching staff was disastrous in 2001, but in 2002, they began to give their youngsters more chance with Brian Lawrence, Jake Peavy, and Oliver Perez.  Eric Milton wasn't exactly a great pitcher in 2001, but he was part of the surprise Twins staff (winning 15 games himself) and was eating over 200 innings at age 25.  He didn't allow a tremendous amount of base runners, but gave up too many long balls.  Another pickup for a young pitching staff hoping to have a few guys break out.

11.  Toronto Blue Jays:  Jose Vidro (2B) of the Montreal Expos
If you remember, this was at an age with middle infielders suddenly became pretty good hitters, and were quickly becoming like gold.  Vidro was doing this for the Blue Jays' Canadian counterpart as a young switch-hitter.  No pitchers are prominent enough to take right now, and the Jays have a young Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter, not to mention Esteban Loaiza who showed some flashes of brillance.  They had good power in their lineup with Carlos Delgado and Raul Mondesi, and a young Vernon Wells and Shannon Stewart.  Drafting Vidro keeps them from starting their future Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson, but I think it is a move the Blue Jays make if they want to compete with the high-powered offenses of the Yankees and Red Sox.

12.  New York Mets:  Preston Wilson (CF) of the Florida Marlins
This one I've wondered about being that my team is the Mets, and they underwent a massive facelift that offseason that ultimately put them in the hole for awhile (Alomar, Vaughn, Burnitz, Cedeno, etc.).  The Mets had a fairly young Jay Payton in centerfield already, and were about to make major changes to counteract a disappointing 2001 season.  Nevertheless, I think this move would be made, and maybe one less move of the spending spree they went on.  Wilson is the son of Mets hero, and then first base coach Mookie Wilson.  In fact, Wilson was a Mets prospect when he was traded to the Marlins for Mike Piazza.  If they make this move, they probably still trade for Roberto Alomar and Mo Vaughn, but maybe they save the money they ended up wasting on Roger Cedeno.

13.  Boston Red Sox:  Derrek Lee (1B) of the Florida Marlins
This one was a little tough, but I feel it is a good smart move by the Red Sox.  In 2001, they had a solid hitting Brian Baubach at first base, but brought Tony Clark in for 2002 to split time with him.  Derrek Lee had already shown he could hit quite well for a 25-year old, and was quickly improving in the field.  He was just heading towards arbitration, and the Red Sox could have locked him up for a nice price, and an even nicer future.

14.  Chicago White Sox:  Corey Koskie (3B) of the Minnesota Twins
Corey Koskie had just had a big breakout year in 2001 with the Twins, and appeared to be an All-Star for years to come.  In his previous partial seasons, he had shown an ability to hit, but lacked the playing time.  The White Sox at the time having already missed the star pitchers of the draft would likely go with further improving their heavy-hitting lineup.  After all, they had plenty of young pitchers they were expecting to break out already.  Insert a 2001 Corey Koskie in a lineup with Paul Konerko, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Lee, Frank Thomas, and Jose Valentin (shifting him to shortstop for Koskie), and you have an extremely powerful lineup that easily is in the playoffs in 2002.

15.  Los Angeles Dodgers:  Darin Erstad (CF) of the Anaheim Angels
I have the Dodgers spending their pick on the center fielder of their cross-town rival, Darin Erstad.  Erstad was young, and still fairly healthy back then.  While his 2001 season was a disappointment, he was only one season removed from his great 2000 campaign where he posted an OBP over .400, 240 hits, a .355 batting average, and played Gold Glove defense in center field.  The Dodgers would trade Gary Sheffield that offseason for Odalis Perez and a couple of others.  Aside from Shawn Green, they didn't have any formidable bats in the lineup.  While Erstad never lived up to his 2000 season again, the memories were still fresh in our minds in 2001 that it would have been plausible.

16.  Philadelphia Phillies:  Mike Lowell (3B) of the Florida Marlins
No team is getting picked apart faster than the Florida Marlins, and Mike Lowell is the latest victim of the draft.  Despite being fairly deep in the draft, the Phillies have a few ways they could go here.  They could go with a Brad Radke to bring a veteran pitcher to a relatively young rotation, but they have Robert Person in addition to four guys in the rotation under the age of 27.  Their lineup really isn't bad either, but if they were picking one pick earlier, I would suggest Darin Erstad would make a much better addition leading off in center field than Doug Glanville or Ricky Ledee will do.  The point of this pick is that is gives them more options throughout the winter.  Lowell seems like an odd pick because going into 2002, the Phillies still had Scott Rolen at third.  However, Rolen and then manager Larry Bowa were already going at it, and Rolen did not seem intent at remaining a Phillie after 2002.  Rather than trade him at the deadline to the Cardinals for a package of spare parts at best, they could spend the winter getting a much better return.  Just imagine Lowell in a lineup with Abreu, Burrell, Rollins, and Thome after 2002.

17.  Chicago Cubs:  Luis Castillo (2B) of the Florida Marlins
I'm tempted to go the easy way out and draft Matt Clement or Antonio Alfonseca for the Cubs.  After all, the Cubs traded for these two guys that winter, and ultimately gave up Dontrelle Willis who had more success with the Marlins than Clement did with the Cubs.  However, since the Cubs had a 20-game winner in Jon Lieber, and a young Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, I think the lineup could use more help.  The thing is, the Cubs upgraded their lineup so much that winter that it is hard to pinpoint where to use one draft pick.  Mine goes with Luis Castillo because of all the positions that were upgraded that winter, I don't think anyone expected half of what Mark Bellhorn contributed to the 2002 Cubs.  Bellhorn hit 27 HRs while posting an on base percentage of .374.  Castillo would have been only 25 at the time of this draft, had great on base skills, and of course plenty of speed.  I think the Cubs would have been much happier to have him leading off than Corey Patterson.

Otherwise, I could suggest they draft the Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins rather than the Alex Gonzalez they signed for 2002.  Maybe 2003 turns out differently?

18.  Atlanta Braves:  Troy Percival (RP) of the Anaheim Angels
To be honest, the Braves probably could use a hitter of just about any sort here.  For years, the Braves trotted out random infielders like Quilvio Veras or Keith Lockhart, and still found ways to keep the lineup productive.  Furthermore, they moved Chipper Jones from third to left field that offseason to make way for Vinny Castilla (who was on the way out).  They also acquired Gary Sheffield from the Dodgers.  However, I went a slightly different route.  Despite Jones being moved to left field, a highly sought debate what whether John Smoltz should be a starter or closer for the team following the departure of John Rocker.  Despite the Braves great rotation of Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Kevin Millwood, and Damian Moss, I'm going to say Smoltz should be in that rotation, making it effectively unstoppable.  This leaves a hole for the closer's role which goes to the newly drafted Troy Percival.  Percival is likely the best closer in this draft, and the only one worth drafting in the first round.  The Braves winning streak of division titles would continue, and I think a high caliber closer is something they would want for their many playoff runs that resulted in zilch.

19.  San Francisco Giants:  Tim Salmon (RF) of the Anaheim Angels
This one is rather ironic since the Angels were not contracted and went on to win the World Series the following season against the Giants with big help from Salmon.  Salmon was on the downhill part of his career, but like Erstad before him, he was only a year removed from a great season in 2000.  For as much as people think of the 2001 Giants as being an offensively dominant team, they really only got good production out of a handful of players (Bonds, Kent, Aurilia).  Armando Rios was decent, but was traded the previous trade deadline for Jason Schmidt.  Ultimately, the Giants would replace Rios that winter with Reggie Sanders, but Tim Salmon likely would do the trick.

20.  Cleveland Indians:  Garrett Anderson (LF) of the Anaheim Angels
The run on Angels continues here.  Garrett Anderson is not a player I particularly like.  He is a guy who never did much of anything great, but drove in lots of runs largely because of the many opportunities he had.  In 2002-03, he did a bit better while leading the league in doubles, but that was short-lived, and is of no consequence here.  In any event, a guy who could hit 30 home runs a year was a slugger (35 in 2000; 28 in 2001).  The Indians had just lost outfielders Juan Gonzalez and Marty Cordova to free agency.  They replaced one of them with Matt Lawton, but would only have Russell Branyan and Karim Garcia on the other side.  While I don't like Anderson, he was considered a good hitter back in the day, and would surely be an upgrade over those two.

21.  Arizona Diamondbacks:  Josh Beckett (SP) of the Florida Marlins
It probably is a stretch that Josh Beckett hadn't been taken yet, but by the end of 2001, Beckett was only 21 with four starts under his belt.  However, they were four very good starts.  Even without the Major League experience, the game had high expectations  for him.  He was the second overall pick in 1999.  The Diamondbacks, just coming off a World Series victory, kept most of their lineup intact except for Matt Williams and Reggie Sanders, and replaced them rather adequately.  Of course their rotation led by Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling was great, but not deep.  Enter the young 21-year old as their pick to the team.  When Schilling and Johnson left in the near future, it would have been Brandon Webb and Josh Beckett to follow in their steps.

22.  St. Louis Cardinals:  A.J. Pierzynski (C) of the Minnesota Twins
So Cardinal fans may scoff at this choice, but consider the situation.  Pierzynski was a young, up and coming catcher in 2001.  Fans didn't really know he would turn into an ass just yet, and his name wouldn't be synonymous with robbing Brian Sabaen for a few more years.  The Cardinals on the other hand have a terrific hitter for every spot on the diamond except for catcher.  Meanwhile, the pitching staff wasn't particularly young, it was still effective.  Adding a young, everyday player that was already showing upside seems like a Cardinals move to me.

 23.  Houston Astros:  Christian Guzman (SS) of the Minnesota Twins
This one seems like a move the Astros would still make today sadly.  However, at the time, the Astros were on the way up.  For 2002, the top three pitchers in their rotation were under the age of 26 including Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller.  They lost a couple pieces of the offense like Moises Alou and Vinny Castilla, but still had much of their lineup intact.  Houston had a young Julio Lugo at the time, but Guzman was still a couple years younger, sporting a good glove, and his hitting seemed to be improving nicely for that age.  In 2001, he led the American League in triples despite playing in only 118 games, and hit over .300.  While he never panned out to much of anything, at the time he showed some promise.

24.  New York Yankees:  Tony Armas (SP) of the Montreal Expos
Not exactly a great pick because Armas never panned out, but at the time the Yankees had next to nothing in their farm system. Armas may not have been headed to Columbus, but having a young starting pitcher, even for their bullpen would have been something the Yankees would have done.  If I had to put money on it, I'm thinking the Yankees take someone like Armas, only to use him as trade bait for a team not wanting to pay for a Vladimir Guerrero.  The Yankees only really needed a corner outfielder headed into 2002 anyway.

25.  Oakland Athletics:  Doug Mientkiewicz (1B) of the Minnesota Twins
The A's had just completed a fantastic 102-win season, trailing only the Seattle Mariners in the Majors that year.  However, they lost Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon, and ultimately began their Moneyball campaign.  Billy Beane is noted for signing Scott Hatteberg with the expectation he would contribute greatly.  If this draft had occurred after Beane was convinced Moneyball was the way to go, he would have most likely taken Doug Mientkiewicz.  Mientkiewicz had just completed his first full season, and did so by posting a .387 OBP, hitting over .300 and showing a spectacular glove at first base.  He would have been the perfect get to replace MVP-Jason Giambi at the time, at least according to Billy Beane.

26.  Seattle Mariners:  Brad Radke (SP) of the Minnesota Twins
What do you draft for a team that won 116 games, and lost very few important pieces?  In this case, it would be a pitcher.  The Mariners only lost two guys from their lineup, both minor pieces, and replaced them with equal to better bats.  If anything, it was their rotation that took a hit by losing Aaron Sele.  Radke is more than a suitable replacement for Sele as a middle of the rotation guy.  Freddy Garcia and Jamie Moyer still led things off, and Joel Piniero was just coming onto the scene.  Radke was a few years younger than Sele, and was one of the most consistent workhorses in the game.

That's my summary of the first round of the 2001 MLB Dispersal Draft that never took place.  I'm sure some have opinions on who their team should have taken instead, and I'm definitely interested to here.  Thankfully, Major League Baseball never did contract.  Less than a year from when this idea was being tossed around, the Anaheim Angels would go on to win the 2002 World Series.  One year later, the Florida Marlins would win the World Series.  The Minnesota Twins went on a rather good run winning the AL Central a number of times, but never making it to the World Series.  It is only the Expos, now Washington Nationals, who have yet to make the playoffs, but they appear to be only a month away from a National League East title.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Run Billy Run

Another lesser known record was broken tonight.  Billy Hamilton, shortstop of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Double-A club of the Cincinnati Reds), set the all-time professional league mark of stolen bases in a season, swiping four tonight to give him a total of 147 this season.  This broke the previous record of 145 set by speedster Vince Coleman in 1982 for the Macon Redbirds.  Not being a major league record (Rickey Henderson with 130 in 1982), this record will probably be forgotten by most.  However, I find it noteworthy given that a few months I mentioned here that stolen bases were on the decline.

Coleman stole 145 bases for the Macon Redbirds (Single-A) in only 113 games.  Hamilton on the other hand needed 120 games to reach and surpass the mark, but there are a couple things worth noting.  Hamilton's pace is not slowing (12 SB in his last 9 games).  I don't have split stats on Coleman, but I would be curious if Coleman was trailing off in his pace as the season wore.  More noteworthy is that Hamilton reached the total while splitting the season between Single and Double-A (about a 70/30 split so far), so the level of competition should have been a touch higher.  Remarkably, both of their success rates at stealing are very similar.  Coleman stole bases in 1982 at an 82.4% clip.  This year, Hamilton is stealing at an 81.7% clip.  A negligible difference when you again consider the different levels Hamilton has played at.

It isn't to say Hamilton is the better of the two, or that his record is more impressive.  It simply means it will be interesting to see how the 22-year old Hamilton fares compared to Coleman in the long run.  It is worth mentioning that in that 1982 season, Coleman hit .350, that's 86 points better than his Major League average, and 67 points higher than his Minor League average.  Billy Hamilton is hitting .318 this season compared to a .317 Minor League average, and an OBP of .417 compared to his .427 career percentage.  This would lead to the hypothesis that Hamilton could end up providing plenty of stolen bases to the Cincinnati Reds organization in the near future.

Jim Joyce Saves Woman's Life

Over the past two seasons, umpire Jim Joyce has been known for little more than blowing a call in Armando Galarraga's perfect game attempt during the 2010 season.  Too often, umpires and referees are considered only enemies and not friends.  Rarely getting the credit they deserve.  On Monday night, Joyce deserved the credit for going far beyond his umpire duties when he used CPR to revive a woman prior the Diamondbacks-Marlins game who had a seizure and stopped breathing.  For someone that will still likely be known in ten years as the guy that blew "the call", let's remember who good those people can be, and give the credit they deserve.


The Miami Dolphins used a total of 16 different starting quarterbacks from their inaugural year in 1966 in the AFL through the 1999 NFL season when Dan Marino announced his retirement.  Of those sixteen, four of them occurred in the first seasons alone, and two others: Marino and Bob Griese combined to start 391 games over those three plus decades.

Since the retirement of Dan Marino, the QB position as been bleak for the Dolphins.  In fact, in the twelve years since Marino retired (2000-2011), the Dolphins have trotted out another sixteen quarterbacks to start games.  Jay Fiedler looked like he would be successful, and it is probably unfair to say he wasn't given his lack of a supporting cast.  He started the majority of games from 2000-2003 despite a handful of starts from Brian Griese, Damon Huard, and Ray Lucas.  By 2004, things, really took a turn for the worse.  In fact, a total of 13 different starting QBs have been used in Miami since 2004.  That's merely eight years!

There were a few disasters and little success.  In the spring of 2006, the Dolphins passed on a chance to acquire Drew Brees because they feared he would not remain healthy.  Instead they traded for then Minnesota Viking Daunte Culpepper.  They would get only four starts out of him, and spent much of the 2006 season relying on Joey Harrington.  So the next offseason they orchestrated a trade for Kansas City Chief, Trent Green.  Green would make five starts for the 2007 Dolphins who likely should have been the first 0-16 NFL team had it not been for a giveaway win in Baltimore that year.

Prior to 2008, the Dolphins would acquire the injury-prone Chad Pennington who had been released by the New York Jets.  Remarkably, Pennington would start all 16 games in 2008 (only the second Dolphin since Marino to do so), and led the Dolphins from a pathetic 1-15 record in 2007 to an AFC East division title in 2008, beating the heavily favored New England Patriots and Brett Favre-led Jets.  The division was decided on the final game of the season for the Dolphins where Pennington led a win over the Jets (former team) in the New Jersey Meadowlands.  Success would not last, and Pennington would only start four more games with the Fins.

While acquiring veterans didn't work out, the Dolphins drafting of QBs may have been even worse.  In the 2007 NFL draft, they chose John Beck of BYU in the second round.  He was released by the Dolphins after two seasons, and one start in the ill-fated 2007 season.  Chad Henne was drafted the following year in the second round from Michigan.  After playing back up in 2008, appearing in only three games, he would make 31 starts over the following three seasons before Miami chose not to resign him this past winter.  Another year later, and Miami used their second round pick for Pat White of West Virginia.  While a very effective spread QB in college, White was expected to be used for the Wildcat option primarily.  He had limited playing time in his first season, and on the final game of the year took a helmet-to-helmet collision on a run.  He was knocked unconscious.  Despite remaining with the team  throughout the winter, he was waived by the Dolphins just before the start of the season and never returned to the NFL.

It was only this past draft that the Dolphins drafted another quarterback for the first time since Pat White, using the 8th overall pick to select Texas A&M Aggie Ryan Tannehill.  On Monday, Miami announced Tannehill would be the starter going into the season David Garrard and Matt Moore.  Assuming Miami sticks to this plan, Tannehill will be the 17th different starting QB since 2000, and the 14th since 2004.  Will success be found?  Some fans such as myself feel that position as nowhere to go by up.

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's Been ___ Many Games Since Our Last Accident

On Saturday, the Houston Astros fired their manager Brad Mills along with a couple of Houston coaches.  It wasn't a big shock.  In two and a half seasons, the Astros have posted a winning percentage of .384 (171-274) under Mills.  Certainly the blame doesn't fall to Mills, at least not solely.  Ownership in Houston hasn't exactly spent big bucks since the Astros brief run of success in the middle of the last decade.  This year, they sport a team whose stars are Jose Altuve, Jed Lowrie, and a very washed up Carlos Lee.  The couple of names they had on their pitching staff, Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers were both traded away.  Oddly, despite being the worst team in baseball by record, they are not ranking last in as many important hitting and pitching categories as you might expected.  Nevertheless, Mills was fired after his team secured yet another losing record by recording their 82nd loss...on August 18th.

New interim manager Tony DeFrancesco was "called up" from his managerial job in Triple-A, and ownership and fans will likely be hoping he can make something better, if only slightly, than what Mills had done.  However, I think a successful campaign is far-fetched as best, and Mills is simply the latest of scapegoats created by an organization without much of a payroll or farm system.

In an attempt to show the short life span of current Major League Baseball managers, here is a look at the number of games each of the current 30 active managers have with their current team.  DeFranceso is the far left with one game (lost 8-1 to Arizona by the way), and Mike Scoiscia leads the way on the far right with 2065 games for the Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem.  It is worth nothing that only five current managers have more than 1,000 games with their current franchise, that's equivalent to just over six seasons.