Monday, December 31, 2012

13 Sports Predictions For 2013

Here is my list of 13 sports predictions for 2013. Some of them are more likely to come true than others, but I tried not to make it too easy. The predictions are for the calendar year, so they have to be decided in the next 365 days. Last year I made 12 predictions for 2012, and half of them came true.

1. Tiger Woods wins a major championship  (wrong)

2. Roberto Luongo will be traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs  (wrong, but it may have been closer to happening than we will ever know)

3. The NHL lockout will end in January 2013

4. A Canadian team will NOT win the Stanley Cup (locked out or not)

5. Toronto Blue Jays will win at least 95 games  (wrong, they won a pathetic 74 games)

6. Drew Brees leads the NFL in pass yards and TDs next season

7. New England Patriots will win their division next season

8. Denver Broncos will win the Super Bowl this season (wrong)

9. Toronto Raptors will be at least 15 games under .500 over the next 365 days (they are 11-20 this season to close out 2012) (wrong, they were pretty much a .500 team)

10. Tim Tebow will start at least 10 games (wrong, he started zero)

11. When NHL does resume play, less than 50% of Russians who played in 2011/12 will return to the league. (credit the Sochi Olympics, hatred of Bettman, and the Russian mob washing dirty money for the majority of this talent retention)  (wrong, I wasn't expecting KHL to force players to honour NHL contracts after labour dispute)

12. Josh Hamilton falls off the wagon

13. Sidney Crosby leads the NHL in scoring over the next 365 days (Sidney outscored Pat Kane 130 to 128, with Kane playing many more games)

Those are my predictions. I challenged one of my friends to come up with 13 predictions of his own, and they are included below.

1) NHL does not come back for 2012-13 season but does for 2013-14 (wrong)

2) Lakers don't get past first round of playoffs

3) Russell Wilson wins rookie of year (winner RGIII)

4) Seahawks win Super Bowl (wrong)

5) Jays finish first in AL East (not even close)

6) Rory wins 2+ majors (tiger 0)  (wrong)

7) Anderson silva loses to gsp by decision (wrong, GSP didn't want to fight Silva)

8) Manny paquio retires  (he's still going)

9) 2-3 professional sports athletes commit suicide/murder (2 are currently charged with murder with trials pending. This prediction is revoked if either Hernandez or Pistorious is aquitted)

10) Chelsea misses champions league qualification (wrong)

11) Danica Patrick remains winless but does playboy spread  (dammit)

12) Tim Thomas decides to take another year off because everyone else got one.  (lockout ended, and Thomas came back this year)

13) Tebow ends up in Jacksonville,Vick in NYC, sanchez ends up on bench till Vick gets hurt again and sinks jets playoff hopes singlehanded again. (wrong)

If You Want To Win, Put Tebow In!

When the New York Jets traded to acquire Tim Tebow, it raised plenty of eyebrows in the football world. There were other teams in far worse need of a quarterback, with the Jets paying a lot of money to Mark "The Sanchize" Sanchez. Did the Jets want an insurance policy in the event Sanchez faltered, or did they simply want to sell jerseys to the army of Tebow fans? As this season has unfolded, Sanchize has gotten progressively worse; throwing 18 Interceptions in 15 games, fumbling the ball 9 times. It was ugly, just about as bad of a season as a QB can possibly have, including one fumble after running head first into a lineman's ass.

And yet despite the spectacular futility of the starter, Tim Tebow started zero football games for this team (attempting just 8 passes, completing 75% of them, rushing for 102 yards on 32 attempts). It makes you wonder why they traded for him in the first place. 80% of the times he touched the ball, it was a running play. When Rex put Tebow in (never for more than a few plays at any one time), he quite often did the same thing. That's called predictable.

Tebow has been a winner at every level he's played, despite problems with throwing accuracy. He starts games slow, then in the 4th quarter miraculously transforms into an unstoppable force. They call it "Tebow Time", and it is quality entertainment. Last year he beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in a playoff game with an 80 yard touchdown pass in overtime.

I'm not a fan of the guy on a personal level, as I find him to be too preachy about his religion. I don't hold a grudge against people who are religious, unless of course they get unwantedly talkative about it. It's not that I want him to succeed, but absolutely he's entertaining to watch. He'll play about as poorly as a QB can play for the first 3 quarters, then he goes bananas. It's awesome. I don't like the guy, but I watch the sport to be entertained. He entertains me. It's like after he pulls off a miracle win in "Tebow time" after sucking for most of the game, I expect him to pull a Russel Crowe from Gladiator "are you not entertained? Is that not why you're here?"

The best guess puts him in Jacksonville next season, and that he's done in New York. That's where he needs to be. That GM needs Tebow. They already have Maurice Jones Drew and a good young hands guy in Justin Blackmon. Unfortunately Jacksonville's defense sucks, so unless they improve, it will be that much tougher for Tebow to pull off 4th quarter miracle comebacks. Perhaps Tebow's religion made him a social/figurative lightning rod in the dressing room, but I do remember him single handedly beating the Jets the year before. Unnamed players on the Jets Defense said that he sucked this season. Well if he sucks, and he beat you the year before, what does that say about you?

If you play the "missed tackles" drinking game, you'll be passed out before the touchdown.

Will Russian Hockey Players Return To NHL After Lockout?

The NHL is locked out for the second time since 2004/05, and once again the majority of Russian players who had been playing in the NHL have returned to play in Russia. Last lockout the KHL did not yet exist, however there is a high probability that the Russian mob was already using Russian pro hockey to wash dirty money. I can't tell you what the average salary of a Russian player was in 2005 versus 2012; even if they're listed online, there were/are likely substantial under the table payments. It is difficult to measure changes in the monetary incentive for Russian players to stay in Russia. The other difference between 2005 and 2012 is that Russia will soon be hosting a winter Olympics, which could lure players to stay in Russia, especially if they believe playing in the KHL increases their chances of playing on the national team.

Of the Russian players who played in the NHL in 2004 and returned to play in Russia during the lockout, 74% of them returned to the NHL after the lockout for the 2005/06 season. 26% did not return for the next season.

The players who went home and returned to the NHL the season after the lockout were: (note my list only includes Russians drafted to the NHL after the fall of the Soviet Union, since I'm using my draft database to get these names)

Ilya Kovalchuk
Dainius Zubrus
Alexander Semin
Pavel Datsyuk
Sergei Gonchar
Nikolai Antropov
Andrei Markov
Fedor Tyutin
Alexei Ponikarovsky
Sergei Samsonov
Alexei Kovalev
Nikolai Zherdev
Alexander Frolov
Ruslan Salei
Vyacheslav Kozlov
Maxim Afinogenov
Denis Grebeshkov
Viktor Kozlov
Dmitri Kalinin
Alexei Semenov
Alexei Zhitnik
Andrei Zyuzin
Sergei Brylin
Vitaly Vishnevsky
Maxim Kondratiev
Alexei Yashin
Oleg Saprykin
Darius Kasparaitis
Danil Markov
Dmitry Afanasenkov
Alexei Zhamnov
Oleg Kvasha
Alexander Khavanov
Alexander Karpovtsev
Andrei Nazarov
Konstantin Koltsov
Fedor Fedorov

The players who never returned:

Denis Arkhipov
Igor Korolev
Andrei Nikolishin
Alexei Morozov
Alexander Korolyuk
Ivan Novoseltsev
Artem Chubarov
Petr Schastlivy
Denis Shvidki
Igor Radulov
Maxim Kuznetsov
Sergei Zinovjev
Mikhail Kuleshov

If we assume that the increased strength of the KHL versus the old Russian Elite League and the Soviets hosting the next Olympics will convince more players to stay in the motherland; we could see half of the Russians who played in the NHL in 2011/12 (and are currently playing in the KHL) stay home when a new CBA is signed. There are very few Russians playing in the AHL this season (9 if you count former Soviet Republics).

34 Russian hockey players played at least 9 GP the NHL last season. 5 of those players are playing in the AHL this season (Loktinov, Burmistrov, Orlov, Voynov, and Grachev). 26 of them are playing in the KHL this season (7 of those now KHL players are not under NHL contract if the league were to resume). Those players under NHL contract are:

Alexander Ovechkin
Evgeni Malkin
Alexander Semin
Pavel Datsyuk
Ilya Kovalchuk
Andrei Markov
Sergei Gonchar
Fedor Tyutin
Anton Volchenkov
Nik Antropov
Sergei Kostitsyn
Nikolai Kulemin
Anton Babchuk
Nikita Nikitin
Alexei Emelin
Artem Anisimov
Alexei Ponikarovsky
Kaspars Daugavins
Dmitri Kulikov

My prediction is that at least 10 of the players listed above stay in Russia at the end of the lockout. I'm just not sure which ones it will be. Hopefully Datsyuk comes back. He did last time.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Fantasy Football Implications Of Chiefs Murder-Suicide

What happened Saturday in Kansas City was a terrible tragedy, when a Chiefs linebacker murdered his girlfriend, drove to Arrowhead Stadium, and shot himself in front of his Coach and General Manager. Despite the despicable nature of this incident, how many fantasy football contestants heard this news and immediately wondered what possible effect this might have on their fantasy playoff picture? We have often seen situations where a football player has experienced the loss of a family member, they dedicate the next game to the memory of the deceased, and have an epic performance. Torey Smith and Victor Cruz have done so this year alone. Dedicating a game to a deceased friend or relative often leads to a substantial boost in player performance, but does the same phenomenon occur when dealing with a teammate who murdered the mother of his child and shot himself in the stadium parking lot the day before a game? I feel like that's something that needs to be measured empirically, but the sample size is just one.

What has to happen for a sane, otherwise rational person to snap and commit such an unthinkable act? Domestic violence is more common than we as a society would like it to be, but incidents such as this are extremely rare among professional athletes. In recent years, there has been a significant number of suicides among former football players (and hockey enforcers), where autopsies showed significant brain damage. Is this player a villain or a victim? How the Kansas City Chiefs players perceive it may or may not affect their performance in the next few weeks.

Did this player experience a major brain trauma, or was he just a bad person? We can't know for sure at this time. It all depends on perception. He is described as succeeding despite a limited skill set, so was he abusing performance enhancing drugs to make it at the NFL level? If he were experiencing "roid rage", it would be a possible plausible explanation for what caused him to snap. Mix in possible brain damage from repeated collisions, and you could see how the villain could become a perceived victim in this set of circumstances. Perhaps the best course of action is to compile a list of "dead relative/teammate" incidents against "teammate did a bad thing" incidents, and measure how teams responded. I'm sorry, that study won't be included in this post, but it's bouncing around my brain at the moment.

I don't even know whether or not to recommend "start your Chiefs" or "start your Panthers" for Sunday. It's not a sure thing how the team will respond. We'll find out today.