Sunday, August 28, 2011

Nathan Horton Complains About Rome's Apology

It is acceptable for Nathan Horton to hold a grudge against Aaron Rome for the hit that knocked him out of the Cup finals last year, but it is a childish move to start complaining about the apology through the media. Rome did apologize for the infraction that was but a fraction of a second away from being a clean hit, except he did so in a text message and that has been deemed unacceptable by Horton. That's his opinion and he's allowed to believe he deserved a phone call, but don't take it to the media. What's the point? What does he hope to accomplish?

I'd be curious to know what percentage of hits causing injuries lead to an apology phone call by the player doing the hitting. Just how common is the apologize for injury phone call? Perhaps this is an unwritten rule that I'm unaware of, or Horton is just hyper sensitive. What he should do is wait until the next time he plays Aaron Rome, drop the gloves, and give his a good beating. That's how it is typically done in the NHL.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hank Aaron Comeback?

There have been rumblings on the internet (led by ESPN Sports Guy Bill Simmons) to have Hank Aaron return to baseball at age 77 to try and hit 8 more home runs and take back his all-time record from Barry Bonds. This is a marvelous idea and it absolutely needs to be done.

It started in a summer mailbag by Simmons:

Q: Thome's 600th this week prompted me to look into the all-time home run leaders. I can't believe Aaron is only 7 behind Bonds on the all-time list. Can Hammerin' Hank can still put a few in the bullpen? Proposition for Hank and Bud to ponder: have Henry DH for the Orioles for the rest of the year and slug 8 out in meaningless games. It would be great to see him run around those bases again like when he got mobbed by the 2 guys in Atlanta.

— Mike Snyder, Scranton

SG: This idea delighted me to the point that I looked up Hank's age on Wikipedia: He's 77 years old. If he came back, he'd have the benefit of EVERY opposing pitcher/catcher trying to help him; nobody would want to strike him out or make him look bad. He'd probably need two or three years to get to eight, and he'd need about six weeks as the DH each season … so you're right, for this to work, we'd need a basement-dweller like the Orioles who had nothing to lose. First question: Could a late-70s Hammering Hank hit eight homers in 12 weeks over two years with every opposing pitcher grooving him meatballs? (It's conceivable, you have to admit.) Second question: Wouldn't it be worth it for the Orioles attendance-wise to try this Hank Aaron experiment? (Hell yeah.) Third question: When he struck the eighth homer, would that be one of the five or six single happiest moments in sports history? (I'm welling up just thinking about it.) Fourth question: If Hank broke the record, would we have to worry about a Barry Bonds comeback? (Crap, this is suddenly a bad idea.)

Then in the next mailbag the idea evolved.

Q: You wondered if 77 year old Hank Aaron could hit eight homers to pass Barry Bonds? I guess you don't remember 75 year old Luke Appling (go to 10:38 mark of this clip) taking Warren Spahn deep at an Old-Timer's Game. And Appling looked like he swallowed Greg Luzinski at the time.

— Steve Brightman, Kent, OH

SG: Boom! Video proof that Aaron's comeback could work! Also, a number of readers pointed out that teams could just agree to let every hit off Aaron's bat become an inside-the-park home run. In other words, we could get Bonds' record in two days, or as long as it takes Aaron to run around the bases eight times, whichever comes first.

I understand that the idea is completely sarcastic and will never happen, but what I'm saying is that it would be the greatest thing in the world if it did. Kinda like Bernie Mack in Mr 3000. At the very least somebody needs to make a movie about this hypothetical scenario.

Monday, August 22, 2011

How Good Is Mark Sanchez?

Just how good is New York Jets quarterback Mark "the Sanchize" Sanchez? It is difficult to rationally evaluate his value heading into this season because he wins games in the playoffs and has the potential to put up big points; but, he also puts up a lot of duds. Below is the game by game for his 2010 season.

Mark Sanchez 2010 Fantasy PTS for ESPN standard scoring

1Bal7400 / 02
2NE22030 / 022
3@Mia25630 / 022
4@Buf16120 / 114
5Min19100 / 07
6@Den19812 / 07
8GB25602 / 08
9@Det33611 / 321
10@Cle29921 / 023
11Hou31531 / 024
12Cin16611 / 08
13@NE16403 / 12
14Mia21601 / 46
15@Pit17000 / 013
16@Chi26911 / 012
17Buf000 / 00

He has to have one of the largest hot and cold variances among starting QBs in the NFL. When he's on he's on, but good luck playing roulette with his weekly match-ups. In 5 games he had more than 20 pts, and in 7 games he had less than 10. In shallow fantasy leagues Sanchez is often not even drafted, but deeper leagues and 2 QB leagues see his value increase by virtue of his starting job on a quality team with a great defense who can get him the ball back when he makes a mistake. He has talent around him and the moxy to beat Tom Brady head to head in a playoff game. Is he going to make a great leap forward? It is plausible. QBs generally take the longest to develop. There's no way you should start the season with Sanchez as your #1 QB, but he's an interesting back up in deep leagues.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Should NCAA Athletes Be Paid A Fair Wage?

My poll question of the month; do you think NCAA athletes should be paid a fair wage? Without a moment's hesitation my answer is yes, these players might be young, but they are still adults. They generate massive amounts of revenue for their schools and their only compensation is an education and some food stamps (assuming they are even able to graduate). The earnings window for football players is one of the smallest in professional sports to accumulate compensation for the hard work, pain, and punishment they endure. Many of these players never even get a chance to earn a pro pay day because they suffer career ending injuries at the collegiate level or aren't skilled enough to make the NFL.

If you empowered NCAA players with their own money that would in theory make them less vulnerable to the enticements of boosters. Granted I could see there being a slight moral hazard to giving college students large sums of money. Thinking back to my own collegiate days, if somebody put a million dollars into my bank account any given year, there's a really good chance I would not have graduated. So there are two sides to the argument. Perhaps instead of a pro scale wage, we start by paying them minimum wage? That seems fair.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Is Storage Wars Scripted?

Recently a friend and I had a debate about whether or not A&E's hit television show Storage Wars is scripted, as he has recently become suspicious about the show's "truthiness". As a fan of the show, I don't believe the characters are reading cue cards or following set scripts, but I do believe there is more to the show than meets the eye. Having worked in the moving and storage business where we frequently moved the entire contents of houses and apartments into storage units, I do have some appreciation for the probability theory of finding value in storage. I'm no Dave Hester, but I do have a working knowledge of the industry (at least in Vancouver).

Here are some of my observations and the realities that I suspect to be true of Storage Wars.

1) The rate at which they find high value collectible items in these lockers is extraordinarily high relative to what it should be. That means one of two things is true, a whole lot of footage gets cut and the majority of auctions we never see, or the locker content is somehow manipulated by the people who make the show. I did a Google search, and the most prevalent accusation against the show seems to be that high value items are planted in the lockers.

2) The values (or scores) that they display on the show are just guesses by the person who bought the locker, not the actual amount that they were able to get for the item in reality. You will see Jerrod walk through a locker and point to all the different items while throwing out numbers, but if you compare the numbers he calls out against the price of a comparable item at Walmart, good luck getting $50 for that used sewing machine. Rather than score the show based on what the purchaser guesses items to be worth, it should be what the item was actually sold for.

3) It is very likely that access to these auctions is tightly controlled by the show producers. This is merely a suspicion, but I do not believe that anyone could just walk in off the street and attend a Storage Wars auction. Why? The show is on television with millions of viewers, and there are a lot of people (especially in California) who will do anything to get on TV. When I saw that the number of people attending the auctions in season 2 was roughly the same as season 1, access has to be manipulated. Season 1 had millions of viewers and was a great success. If anyone could attend these auctions, then you'd see thousands at every auction in season 2.

4) The cast. My friend believes that the cast is too conveniently diverse. You have a villain, a gambler, a husband-wife team, and an antique collector with comic relief. While I do not believe that the cast are reading cue cards, I do believe that they were in fact casted. The main characters didn't just show up and that's why they are on the show, it's likely there were either auditions, or the auctioneer approached individual people with invitations to be cast in Storage Wars. This doesn't necessarily mean the show is fake or the auctions are pre-ordained.

5) If you yourself rent a storage locker, you need to know that the landlord will double lock your unit as soon as you're a day late with a payment. If you know that you are facing financial difficulty and won't be able to make future payments, get your valuables out of the locker before it gets double locked. It doesn't take long for the fines and penalties to stack on top of each other, to the point where you might never be able to afford to access your items ever again.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Blue Jays Stealing Signs?

It has been alleged in the baseball world that the Toronto Blue Jays have been stealing the other team's signs at home games, sparking outrage by some writers at ESPN as though some horrific crime has been committed against humanity. How do they know (errr, suspect) this happens? Opposing pitchers in the other team's bullpen at Sky Dome have confidentially reported suspicious behaviour by some of the stadium staff, and a few Blue Jay players produce better offensive numbers at home than on the road (which is true of any number of professional athletes). There is no actual hard evidence that the Jays are "cheating", just circumstantial speculation. As the story goes, someone sits in the center field bleachers over 400 feet from home plate, reads the signs, and signals to the player what pitch is coming.

This all leads to the greater question, who the fuck cares? If the Jays are hiding high tech video surveillance equipment to acquire and relay this information, then absolutely that should be punished by the league. But if it is a matter of low tech gamesmanship, then it shouldn't be a big deal at all. I played little league baseball for years and every game we were constantly trying to crack the other teams signs. Baserunners on 2nd base, hitters at the plate, and players on the bench would all try to decode what the other team was going to do next. It was part of the game, and with all the time you spend sitting around in baseball, you need something to talk about!

To opposing teams, it is easy to mix up your signs and make them tough enough to decipher that by the time the Jays figure it out, you've mixed it up again. Of course not all pitchers are equally intelligent, I'm sure many are not smart enough to figure out a complex system of sign language. Maybe what you need to do to keep your intentions secret is to text message your players instead of signalling them from the dugout. Quarterbacks in football have headsets in their helmets to get information from the booth upstairs. Frankly there is no reason to be outraged at gamesmanship (certainly without evidence of any rule violation), and those who are treating it on a comparable level to steroids need to sit down and shut up.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Adam Scott And Steve Williams Versus Tiger Woods

Message to Adam Scott, please don't fire Tiger Woods ex-caddie Steve Williams just because he stole your spotlight at your last tournament victory. This is great for golf, and I want to see Scott and Woods going head to head as often as possible. While many pundits are saying that Williams stole Scott's spotlight last weekend, that spotlight was a hell of a lot bigger with Tiger's angry old caddie participating. Adam Scott winning a non-major tournament dominated sports talk on Monday and Tuesday, which would not have happened without Williams. Whether it was his intention or not, Scott raised his public profile substantially by hiring Tiger's old bag carrier.

That being said, I think Williams is being ridiculously vindictive in how he has handled this. He made over $9 million dollars carrying a golf bag, and did not have to make any shots to do it. Tiger won him a lot of money, so you'd expect him to be a little more grateful. There is no question that Woods did more for Williams than visa versa, so know your role, thank the guy who made you rich, and move on. Granted, we don't know how many favours Williams did for Tiger covering up his rampant affairs, which we might find out if the man writes his tell all book...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Carcillo Calls Out Canucks

The newest addition to the Chicago Blackhawks couldn't even wait until training camp to verbally attack his new Vancouver Canuck rivals. The only problem for the dim witted Carcillo is that 2 of the 3 players he called out are no longer with the team. Great Dan, you can keep Raffi Torres and Tanner Glass "in check", but they play in Winnipeg and Phoenix. His words in the media are little more than cheap stunt and should not be taken seriously. He's an immature punk, which is his reputation around the league. His joining the Blackhawks is great news for the Canucks because he takes a lot of stupid penalties where Chicago is normally a very disciplined team that stays out of the penalty box (they took the 3rd fewest penalties last season). Although Vancouver's power play loses potency without Ehrhoff, the extra PP minutes will help them against the Hawks this season.

Carcillo is a child. I would not want him on my team. I've played minor hockey with idiots like him, and they do more harm than good.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fantasy Football: Problems Drafting Defensive Players

Are you considering entering a fantasy football league that drafts defensive players? My strong recommendation is to stay away from this new phenomenon because it is not nearly as much fun as you think it is. For starters, the best defensive players (especially defensive backs) don't get the most fantasy points. Teams scheme their offenses to attack the weakest part of the opposing defenses, giving the mediocre and low quality players more opportunity to accumulate statistics.

For example, Darelle Revis ranks around 80th among CBs because the ball never gets thrown in his direction, Asamuga ranks around 120th at his position despite being on of the best at his position. Polamalu was the defensive player of the year, so you would think he'd be the most dominant safety, right? Wrong, he ranks about 30th (varying depending on the exact scoring system). ESPN's experts recommend Polamalu as a "spot start against weak opponents". Clay Mathews came in 2nd in defensive player of the year of the year voting, but he's only half the linebacker Jerod Mayo is. In fact when you look at defensive statistics, how is it possible that Mayo was not the run away leader in DPOY voting? Why did he not get a single vote despite accumulating by far the best defensive statistics? Is Mayo 60 pts better than James Harrison? Not a chance.

Offense and defense don't work the same way for individual players. While team defense statistics accurately reflects the effectiveness of an entire unit, individual players is not the same case. On offense, the best players accumulate the best statistics (unless he's stuck sitting on the bench like Turner backing up Tomlinson). Defense is reactionary, and if the QB keeps throwing the ball at the same DB because he's the weakest link, that DB will get more opportunity to accumulate tackles. He might have 8 tackles, but what about the 200 yards and 3 TDs he was burned for? Does your league have a stat for that?

Furthermore, it also pays to draft defensive players from teams with the worst offenses. How can a terrible offense help individual D players accumulate more tackles and stats? Because if a team has a poor offense that can't get first downs, their defense will get more snaps on the field, providing more opportunity for tackles. Again because points and yards against are not IDP categories in fantasy leagues, you will often have players who had 10 tackles and a sack in a game where their defense gave up 500 yards; but you rarely see offensive players racking up big points in games where their offense doesn't gain many yards.

Basically, avoid IDP leagues if you can. They are more tedious than fun, the best players in reality are not the best players statistically, and really is better in theory than in practice.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Shea Weber Wins Arbitration

Weber wanted $8.5M for next season, the Predators offered $4.75M (a clearly obvious low ball offer), and the arbitrator awarded him $7.5M. Weber might very well prove worthy of that salary, but it was still an overpayment. Nick Lidstrom won the Norris trophy and signed a 1 year deal for $6.2M, and fellow nominee Zdeno Chara brings in $6.9M per season. Makes you wonder how the arbitrator came up with $7.5M, when none of Weber's Norris nominee peer group makes within $500K of his new salary. Half way between the two offers $6.5M would have been fair market value. Perhaps the arbitrator wanted to punish the Preds for low balling the offer? I'm trying to make some sense of it all, but I can see it makes no sense at all.

This is the largest arbitration prize that has ever been awarded, but then again few players of this stature and calibre make it to arbitration. Perhaps the biggest question, is Shea Weber insulted by the Preds offer? He was overpaid by a million dollars, though that is the Preds fault for taking him to arbitration (blocking other teams from making offers). Had he been an unrestricted free agent, he could have easily scored a $7.5M per year deal for long term. He's that good. But, the Preds still own his rights for another season after this one, so it is not the same circumstances as Parise.

Monday, August 1, 2011

NFL's Easiest And Toughest Schedules Of 2011

Which teams in the NFL have the best schedules heading into the 2011 season? I've broken it down into 2 categories passing yards allowed and rushing yards allowed in 2010 for each team. Rather than attempt to predict defensive production for the 2011 season (which has a high rate of error), last season's schedule was deemed as good a measure as any. Yes, I should have downgraded Oakland's passing defense and upgraded Philly's pass defense based on the Asomogua signing, but alas I did not. He is one man. The strength of schedule lists below are intended for use in ranking players for fantasy football drafts, not determining the probability a team wins a specific number of games.

The results are that Indy, Philly, and Pittsburgh have the best schedules in terms of the pass defense of their opponents, while Kansas, Denver, and Chicago have the worst. Miami, Tennessee, and San Diego face the worst rushing defenses, while Arizona, Cleveland, and Baltimore face the toughest run defenses. When you combine rushing and passing, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and Indianapolis have the best schedules.

Best Schedules For Passing Yards: Rank based on the sum passing yards allowed in 2010 for each team's 2011 opponents.

1. Indianapolis
2. Pittsburgh
3. Philadelphia
4. Cincinnati
5. Arizona
6. San Francisco
7. Cleveland
8. NY Giants
9. Seattle
10. St. Louis
11. Tennessee
12. Baltimore
13. Dallas
14. Tampa Bay
15. Carolina
16. Buffalo
17. Jacksonville
18. Washington
19. NY Jets
20. Miami
21. New Orleans
22. Houston
23. Atlanta
24. San Diego
25. Oakland
26. Minnesota
27. Green Bay
28. Detroit
29. New England
30. Chicago
31. Denver
32. Kansas City

Best Schedules For Rushing Yards: Rank based on the sum rushing yards allowed in 2010 for each team's 2011 opponents.

1. Miami
2. Tennessee
3. San Diego
4. NY Jets
5. Minnesota
6. Chicago
7. Carolina
8. Dallas
9. Atlanta
10. NY Giants
11. San Francisco
12. Oakland
13. Kansas City
14. New England
15. Cincinnati
16. New Orleans
17. Pittsburgh
18. Houston
19. Green Bay
20. Philadelphia
21. Washington
22. Denver
23. St. Louis
24. Tampa Bay
25. Indianapolis
26. Detroit
27. Buffalo
28. Jacksonville
29. Seattle
30. Baltimore
31. Cleveland
32. Arizona

Best overall schedules combining passing and rushing.

1. Pittsburgh
2. Tennessee
3. Indianapolis
4. Cincinnati
5. San Francisco
6. NY Giants
7. Philadelphia
8. Dallas
9. Miami
10. NY Jets
11. Carolina
12. St. Louis
13. San Diego
14. New Orleans
15. Atlanta
16. Houston
17. Seattle
18. Tampa Bay
19. Washington
20. Arizona
21. Cleveland
22. Baltimore
23. Minnesota
24. Oakland
25. Buffalo
26. Jacksonville
27. Chicago
28. New England
29. Green Bay
30. Kansas City
31. Detroit
32. Denver