Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Change I Think Should Be Made to the NFL Playoffs

The Carolina Panthers, who today finished the 2014 NFL regular season with a sub-.500 record, are NFC South champions, and will host a playoff game next weekend against the 11-5 Arizona Cardinals.  I'm not thrilled that Carolina will get to host a postseason game against a team that, despite its late-season struggles, managed to win three-and-a-half more games than the Panthers during the course of the year.  This is why I'm proposing a change to the current NFL playoff system.

Right now, the NFC playoff match-ups for next weekend look like this, with games scheduled to be played at the home stadiums of the higher seeds:

(6) Detroit Lions (11-5) vs. (3) Dallas Cowboys (12-4)

(5) Arizona Cardinals (11-5) vs. (4) Carolina Panthers (7-8-1).

It doesn't look right that a Carolina team which won just seven-and-a-half games on the year qualified for the postseason, but I can deal with that since they won their division.  I think division champions should qualify for the tournament regardless of their record.  

The match-ups for next weekend's playoff games, however, definitely look off.  How could a Dallas team that won 12 games this year get a home game against the 11-win Lions?  All while the 7-8-1 Panthers get to host a first-round playoff game?  Some reward for the Cowboys!

This is why I'm proposing that the NFL begin seeding the teams in each conference after the regular season ends.  Under this format, the worst team to qualify for the playoffs would receive the sixth seed, regardless of whether they were division champions or not, followed by the team with the second-worst playoff record at the fifth seed, and so on.  If this setup were implemented tonight, this year's NFC playoffs would be seeded as follows:

(1) Seattle Seahawks
(2) Green Bay Packers
(3) Dallas Cowboys
(4) Arizona Cardinals
(5) Detroit Lions
(6) Carolina Panthers.

This makes more sense for everyone.  The teams that had successful seasons are rewarded with home games.  The Cowboys would get to play at AT&T Stadium against the Panthers, which I think would be more of a reward for a 12-win squad.  This method also makes more sense than allowing the Panthers to host a game against the Cardinals, who, as noted above, won three-and-a-half more games than their wild-card foes this year.

One could argue that perhaps Carolina shouldn't be allowed to enter the postseason at all since Philadelphia (10 wins) and San Francisco (8 wins) each had a record better than that of the Panthers (I believe it was Daryl Johnston who mentioned on Fox today that some people think the sub-.500 NFC South winner doesn't deserve a playoff berth because of the Eagles' superior record). But I'm beginning to think of the NFL playoffs like March Madness: The conference (in this case, the division) champions automatically qualify for the dance, and then are seeded based upon their regular-season performance.  It would be a little strange, in my opinion, for an NFL team to simultaneously win a division title and miss out on the playoffs.  

But when a division champion has a worse record than its playoff counterparts, it should be given a lower seed.  It doesn't make sense to reward NFL teams with poor records by giving them home playoff games.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

An Argument: The Saints Will Win the NFC South

The NFC South is terrible.  The four teams that make up the division have a combined win percentage of .330 so far this season. The division champion will have, at best, an 8-8 record.  But someone has to win that division.  Someone has to.  And I think that someone will be the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints are the best team in this very bad division.  They're currently in first place with a won-loss record of 6-8, just a half-game ahead of the 5-8-1 Carolina Panthers.  But the Saints' remaining schedule is entirely winnable: A home game against Atlanta followed by an away game against Tampa Bay.  The Falcons and Bucs are 26th- and 25th-best, respectively, in stopping their opponent from scoring.  The Saints, meanwhile, have the ninth-best scoring offense in the NFL.

New Orleans also has a better simple rating system (SRS, a stat) than any of their NFC South counterparts, even though their SRS for the season is -2.1 (0.0 is average).  Again, they're the best team in a bad division.

The biggest threat to the Saints is the Atlanta Falcons.  Atlanta has the tenth-best scoring offense in the league, and also plays its remaining schedule against incredibly poor scoring defenses in New Orleans and Carolina (28th-best and 23rd-best in points allowed per game, respectively).  The Falcons also have the second-best SRS rating among NFC South teams and play the Saints head-to-head this week.  A victory would make up the one-game difference with their division rivals, though Carolina would move ahead of both teams if they were to beat Cleveland and Atlanta defeated New Orleans.

But if you measure the Saints' margins of victory against those of the Falcons, you'll find New Orleans' to be more impressive. Atlanta's biggest win was a 56-14 blowout over Tampa Bay, a 42-point victory.  If you remove those 42 points from Atlanta's total margin of victory from their five wins, you'll find the Falcons other four triumphs this season came by an average of just 6.5 points per win. By contrast, the Saints beat Green Bay by three touchdowns, but still defeated Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Chicago by an average margin of 10.8 points per game.  

So here's my prediction for the NFC South this season: The Saints are the best of the worst, and will retain that title long enough to add another division championship to their resume.

**Note:  All stats and records used in this post came from, except for SRS ratings, which came from  Margins of victory for the Saints and Falcons were calculated by me using scores from Total win percentage for the NFC South was also calculated by me using records from

Monday, December 8, 2014

Three Minor Bowl Games You Should Watch

The Football Bowl Subdivision's December-January schedule is now set, and I'm sure that every big college football fan is now looking forward to the "New Year's Six."  But it's not just the College Football Playoff (CFP) semifinal games that you should be paying attention to if you're going to tune in to this year's postseason. Consider these three games this holiday season in addition to the biggest match-ups:

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl - Arkansas (6-6) vs. Texas (6-6)
This game might not jump out at you, but there is at least one intriguing plot line: How will Arkansas perform?  They were 4-5 before shutting out SEC West opponents LSU and Ole Miss. They also lost to Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and Alabama by seven points, seven points, and one point, respectively.  The Razorbacks have a lot of freshmen and sophomores on their roster, so maybe there's a chance they'll play well against the Longhorns and turn things around next season.

Valero Alamo Bowl - Kansas State (9-3) vs. UCLA (9-3)
The Wildcats (11th in the College Football Playoff rankings) and Bruins (14th) are two of the three highest-ranked teams that didn't get picked for a New Year's Six bowl.  Personally, I'd be angry that Boise State (20th in the CFP rankings) made a New Year's Six bowl ahead of me, but the quality of the two teams involved in this one makes it a good match-up regardless.

National University Holiday Bowl - Nebraska (9-3) vs. USC (8-4)
Can the Trojans (24th in CFP rankings) put up another offensive performance like they did against Notre Dame?  That's my biggest question for Nebraska and USC's match-up on December 27th. The Trojans will face a Cornhuskers defense that gave up 24.8 points per game this season, tied for 49th-best of all Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

In Praise of the NFL's 2014 Thanksgiving Day Schedule

The NFL will hold three regular-season games on Thanksgiving Day this year, as it has each season since 2006.  One week from today, Chicago plays in Detroit, Philadelphia heads to Dallas to take on the Cowboys, and Seattle will travel to San Francisco.  I think the NFL should be praised for creating a schedule this year that honors tradition and focuses on rivalries.  

It was November 29, 1934, when the Lions hosted the Chicago Bears and began a long-running tradition of playing home contests on Turkey Day.  The Dallas Cowboys joined the fun in 1966, when they defeated the Cleveland Browns by the final score of 26-14.  To the NFL's (and the teams' ?) credit, both Detroit and Dallas continue play on the fourth Thursday in November.  The Lions' have played nearly half of their 74 Thanksgiving Day contests against one of their two long-time rivals, the Bears and the Green Bay Packers.

Not as many of Dallas's Thanksgiving Day games have been against current division rivals.  This season's game against Philadelphia will be just the tenth Turkey Day game for the Cowboys against either the Eagles, Redskins, or Giants since Dallas began playing on the holiday.  You have to credit the schedule-makers, though, for adding a game between NFC East franchises to this year's docket, since the division itself is full of fierce and traditional rivalries.

The Seahawks and 49ers games are "new" rivals: The two teams have shared a division only since the last realignment, which took affect starting in 2002.*  But they've played some close games over the last few seasons, with four of their seven meetings since the start of the 2011 being decided by seven points or less.  It's good to have two combatants who've had some tightly-contested tilts in recent years scheduled to play Thanksgiving night.

So hats off again to whomever created this year's NFL Thanksgiving Day schedule.  You've put together a fantastic set of games that appeal to the tradition of NFL Thanksgiving football while also providing fans with great rivalries.

*Note-Actually, this sentence is not entirely correct.  San Francisco and Seattle actually played in the NFC West during the Seahawks' inaugural NFL season, in 1976.  Yeah, I was surprised too.  The Seahawks then moved to the AFC West for 1977 and didn't return to the NFC until 2002.

**Note 2-Sources for this post were,, and the following two pages on Thanksgiving Day football from Page 1 and page 2.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Many Factors Should Be Taken Into Account When Evaluating Great Running Back Performances

On Saturday, Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon set a new Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) record for most rushing yards in a single game, with 408 running yards against Nebraska. Gordon's performance should be immediately inducted into the pantheon of great college football accomplishments, but what I'd like to discuss here is that a wide array of factors should be taken into account when deciding which FBS running back had the best-ever single-game performance.  

In addition to accumulating rushing yards, I think running for touchdowns can help a running back put together a day that's worth debating as the greatest ever.  For example, on November 17, 2012, Temple's Montel Harris rushed for 351 yards on 36 carries against Army, including seven touchdowns.  While Gordon had more yards than Harris on fewer carries, he still would have scored fewer than seven touchdowns if he'd played the entire game (based on the pace at which he scored touchdowns through the first three quarters of the game).  

Other types of yards can also help running backs put up single-game performances worth considering as the greatest ever.  On November 4, 2000, Utah State running back Emmett White racked up a whopping 578 all-purpose yards in a game against New Mexico State.  Well over 100 of those yards were on receptions. I think a good way to evaluate White's day would be to determine how many of his receiving yards came with him lined up in the backfield, because it would help reflect his performance as a running back.

There are potentially endless variables one could come up with when discussing which college running back had the best single-game performance ever.  Who had the best blocking?  Which player's opponent had the best rush defense?  What was the weather like for each player?  The list goes on and on.  So while a game such as the one Melvin Gordon played on Saturday is certainly great, don't make anybody's day the day until you've examined all the factors that make it so fantastic.  There are, after all, quite a few of them.  

**Note:  All statistics used in this post came from, except for the facts about Melvin Gordon breaking the single-game FBS record for most rushing yards and his playing only three quarters of Saturday's game.  I used a combination of this page and this article for those facts, and the facts also seem to be available in a variety of other sources.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Michael Cuddyer Signs with the Mets. Now How Might He Contribute Offensively?

The New York Mets announced this afternoon on Twitter that they have "signed outfielder Michael Cuddyer to a two-year contract." While I'm not totally sure what financial ramifications this deal and its reported worth will bring ('s Adam Rubin cites a "source" as saying the contract is for $21 million), I would like to discuss the signing from the standpoint of batting stats.

I think Cuddyer's hitting ability is a good fit for the Mets because his 2015 Steamer projections in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and wRC+ are better than the 2015 Steamer projections for each of the other Mets outfielders in those same statistical areas. He also has a good deal of experience at first base and would in fact be the perfect platoon partner for incumbent first baseman Lucas Duda.  Cuddyer has put up a career 132 wRC+ against lefty pitchers (compared to Duda's 75) and Duda has a career 138 wRC+ versus righty pitchers (compared to Cuddyer's 105).  Rubin writes that it is "conceivable" for the New York franchise to also use Cuddyer at first "if Duda continues to struggle against left-handed pitching."

There's at least one obvious knock against Cuddyer: The slugger will be 36 in late March.  But perhaps it's not unreasonable to expect him to be at least average when it comes to, say, getting on base.  His lowest single-season on-base percentage during his three seasons as a Rockie (ages 33, 34, and 35) was .317, just five points below his current Steamer projection for 2015.  

So while I'll admit I'm not exactly certain about the value of Cuddyer's reported contract, I do think the outfielder is a good fit for the Mets offensively.  He's projected for good numbers compared to the rest of the team's outfielders, would fit in as a perfect platoon partner for Duda at first should the Mets choose to use him that way, and could potentially perform well with the bat despite his age.  According to the offensive stats currently posted online, I think the Mets made a good choice in signing Cuddyer.

**Note: All statistics and information used in this post came from, except where noted otherwise.  Steamer projections are listed on the fangraphs site.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Even Gods Retire: Kevin Youkilis's Playing Days Are Over

Former major leaguer Kevin Youkilis is retiring according to multiple sources, including a Tweet from Pro Star Management, who lists Youkilis as a client. Youkilis was excellent when it came to reaching first base, with a .382 career on-base percentage that's currently 156th-best in MLB history among qualifiers.  

Also known as "Youk" and "The Greek God of Walks," there was more than one occasion on which the former member of the Red Sox, White Sox, and Yankees could have gone to the Oakland A's (1), but he ended up donning a BoSox jersey for much of his time in the majors instead. 

Youkilis ended his career with 21 games as a Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagle, collecting nearly as many walks (12) as hits (14). Had he drawn just three more bases on balls in Japan, he'd have ended his career the same way he started it: More walks than hits over the course of a season (2).  True, his time in Japan was short, but it's still a fitting swan song for The Greek God of Walks.


1.  The fact that Youkilis could have gone to the A's is discussed more fully in Michael Lewis's Moneyball, particularly in chapters nine and 12.

2.  In his first year in professional baseball, Youkilis played for two of the Boston Red Sox' minor league teams, getting on base 73 times via the walk compared to just 60 times by hits.

3.  All statistics and information used in this post, other than that which came from Moneyball or are otherwise noted to have come from other sources, appeared on

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Yankees Should Get Alexei Ramirez to Play Shortstop

The New York Yankees are in need of a shortstop following the iconic Derek Jeter's retirement from his MLB playing career. Today, I'm arguing that the Yanks should go after Alexei Ramirez to fill that role.  Ramirez is a durable, veteran player whom I think the Yankees may be able to acquire via trade.  He also has good defensive skills and is consistent as an overall baseball player.

In terms of durability, the last time Ramirez played fewer than 156 games in a year was 2009, and his low-water mark for games played in a season during his major league career is 136. That reliability would be good for the oft-injured Yanks, and in my opinion should put Ramirez ahead of less sturdy guys like Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki on the Yankees' list of Jeter replacements.

In addition to playing a lot every season, Alexei Ramirez has also played for seven years in MLB, which gives him plenty of experience.  I think this makes him a better option than other potential trade targets like Didi Gregorius and Jose Ramirez. Gregorius, in fact, has been brought up by at least two blogs as a possible replacement for Mr. November.  While age is a problem for the Yankees (Ramirez is 33), I would rather see them go with a more experienced yet slightly older shortstop so they can contend in 2015.  

I also think Ramirez would be a pretty feasible trade target for the Yankees should they in fact attempt to acquire him.  The Yankees are deep at the catcher, whereas the White Sox have Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley.  Combine that with the fact that Brendan Kuty of wrote of the ChiSox being "linked" to Francisco Cervelli this season, and maybe it's not too much of a stretch to imagine Ramirez getting flipped for a Yankee catcher and another piece or two.

Of course, the Yankees shouldn't go after Ramirez just because of his ability to stay on the field and because they could conceivably pull off a trade for him.  He's a good baseball player too.  He's got a 9.2 defensive WAR for his career and has been fairly consistent every season in both baseball-reference WAR and fangraphs WAR. So Ramirez certainly has been good so far in MLB, a trend he'd hopefully continue if he were to end up in the Bronx.

Now there are certainly arguments one could make against trading for Alexei Ramirez.  The Yankees could sign a free agent, they could trade for another player instead, or Martin Prado could play shortstop.  But there's a good counter to every one of those rebuttals.  

I think Ramirez is better than many of the free agent shortstops on the market this off-season.  Take a look at this chart ranking 2014 MLB shortstops by their WARs.  

And yes, the Yankees could attempt a trade for, say, Ian Desmond or Alcides Escobar, but would Washington or Kansas City be willing to give up such important pieces of their teams?

There's also the possibility of Martin Prado sliding over to shortstop, a case that Michael Moraitis makes, and makes well, on  But while Prado does have good defensive numbers as a shortstop by at least some metrics, he's only played 108.1 big league innings at the position.  If the Yankees want to contend next season, they might be better off with a shortstop who's got more experience actually playing shortstop.  

The New York Yankees have lots of options to fill their vacant shortstop position in 2015, and they should get Alexei Ramirez to play that spot.  He plays in lots of games every season, has been in the majors for seven years, and I think trading for him would be realistic.  Ramirez is also good on defense and is consistent as a baseball player, making him a great pick to start for the Bronx Bombers next year.

**Note: All statistics and information used in this post came from, except where otherwise noted.  The number of innings Martin Prado played at shortstop was found on and confirmed via

Monday, October 6, 2014

My Sister's College Choice is Changing the College Football Teams that I Follow. Again.

A few months ago, my sister began classes at Penn State as the third and final child in my family to attend college.  She was excited about many things as she prepared to leave, including getting to go to Penn State football games.  

Now she and I spend some time talking about Nittany Lion football and I'm finding myself becoming not so much a fan of Penn State but a slightly bigger fan of Big Ten football.  I've watched the Big Ten Network with my father and checked out the conference's standings on in addition to my talks with my sister. These certainly aren't drastic life changes, but I've definitely tweaked the way I pay attention to sports because of where my sister's going to school.

And changing the college football teams I pay attention to definitely isn't a new phenomenon for me.  As a sophomore in high school I used to scan the bottom line of a sports channel (I can't quite remember which channel it was, but it had to be ESPN, right?) for scores of UPenn, Dartmouth, and Wagner games.  I had friends at each school, some of whom were members of the football teams at their respective colleges.  

Later on, after a four-year football career at Division III McDaniel College, I went to Boston University for graduate school and found myself checking the results of McDaniel's games.  

So maybe I shouldn't be surprised that I've begun to pay more attention to the Big Ten, not after I've made slight changes to the way I follow college football in the past.  I have to admit, though, that I'm nervous about my other sister starting graduate school at Boston College.  You see, Terriers and Eagles typically don't get along, especially when it comes to ice hockey.  I may have a dilemma on my hands.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Why an Early Playoff Exit Might Not Be So Bad for the Detriot Tigers

Today the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Detroit Tigers 7-6 to take a 2-0 lead in the American League Division Series (ALDS).  At this point, the Tigers' chances for 2014 aren't looking too good, but I believe that an early exit from this year's postseason might not be such a horrible thing for Detroit and their fans.

The Tigers' bullpen has been terrible so far in the ALDS, giving up 10 earned runs in just 3.2 innings.  Getting knocked out on Sunday or Monday would, particularly if guys like Joba Chamberlain and Joakim Soria keep giving up runs like crazy, show Dave Dombrowski that the boys in stripes are in need of a serious upgrade when it comes to relief pitching.  

And now would be the perfect time to upgrade the staff.  

The roster of free agent relief pitchers available this off-season is deep, with guys like Luke Gregerson, David Robertson, and Andrew Miller hitting the market.  Signing two or more of the available bullpen arms would be ideal for a team that ranked fourth-worst in reliever ERA among MLB teams this season.  

To free up some payroll space for a few more arms, the Tigers could let free agents-to-be Phil Coke, Torii Hunter, and Joba Chamberlain walk.  Keeping Max Scherzer and Victor Martinez while losing all the less-valuable free agents would, of course, be a dream scenario for the Tigers, so perhaps Detroit will have to let Scherzer walk as well (I think they'll have serious issues offensively if they let V-Mart leave).  Losing Mad Max would be detrimental to the starting rotation, but sometimes you have to give something up to get value in other areas.  

In this case, perhaps relief pitchers giving up runs will result in a valuable future for the Detroit Tigers and their relief pitching.

**Note:  Statistics and information in this post came from, with the total number of earned runs given up by the Tigers bullpen during the ALDS calculated through a combination of and  The list of free agents for the coming off-season came from this Cot's Contracts page.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Review of the New York Yankees' Free Agent Pitchers

The off-season has begun for the New York Yankees and the team will soon have to choose players to fill out its 2015 roster.  Today I'm taking a look at the five Yankee pitchers who will be free agents and whether or not Brian Cashman should try to keep them in the Bronx.  

Free agent: Chris Capuano
Position: Starting Pitcher
Re-sign?: No
Capuano pitched relatively well during his time as a Yankee, but I don't think the team should re-sign him to another deal.  He put up a 3.85 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) in his 65.2 innings in pinstripes, which would be the second-best mark of his career over a full season.  He also turns 37 next August. For a youth-challenged, pitching-strong squad, the $2.25 million he made in 2014 could be used to address another area of need, like putting more bats into the lineup.

Free Agent: Rich Hill
Position: Relief Pitcher
Re-sign?: No
Hill's FIP as a Yankee was 2.01, but he's been up and down throughout his career in the majors.  His FIP has ranged from 5.83 with the 2008 Cubs, to 1.52 in just eight innings with Boston in 2011.  The ERA of infinity which he put up with the Angels this season also scares me, even though he allowed just one earned run in two games as a Halo.

Free Agent: Hiroki Kuroda
Position: Starting Pitcher
Re-sign?: Maybe
Kuroda will turn 40 before the next baseball season starts, and despite his consistency over his seven years in the majors (his FIP has ranged from 3.26 to 3.86 during his time with the Dodgers and Yankees), no one can keep producing forever.  I would guess that with Kuroda's age, no teams will want to match his 2014 price tag of $16 million.  If the Yanks believe he can pitch reasonably well next year, they could possibly re-sign him, though they might want to give him something more like $10 million, at most.

Free Agent: Brandon McCarthy
Position: Starting Pitcher
Re-sign?: Yes
Branny Mac, as I like to call him, had the ninth-best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the majors this season among qualifying pitchers.  By comparison, probable Cy Young candidates Corey Kluber and Chris Sale were tenth and eighth, respectively, in strikeout-to-walk ratio. McCarthy also put up the sixth-best MLB ground-out to air-out ratio among qualifiers and had a FIP of 3.22 as a Yankee.  I'm guessing he'll get a raise from the $10.25 million he made in 2014 but still remain less expensive than high-profile free agents like Jon Lester and Max Scherzer, making him an attractive buy for a Yankee team already neck-deep in huge contracts and needing another bat.

Free Agent: David Robertson
Position: Relief Pitcher
Re-sign?: Yes
The incumbent closer was consistently good in FIP over his last three seasons as a Yankee, with his 2014 mark of 2.68 being his highest FIP over the last three years.  Re-signing him would ensure one of the two best pieces of a thin bullpen (the Yanks were 12th-worst in bullpen ERA among MLB teams this year) would stay in pinstripes for another season.  The downside of re-signing him, of course, would be that his price will likely go up, though I'm unsure whether the Yankees have any comparable talent in the lower levels of the organization.

**Note-All of the information and statistics in this post came from, with the following exceptions:  All comparisons between players or teams using 2014 stats came from; the list of Yankee free agents came from the following story on  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Derek Jeter's Swan Song and Clutch

There's no such thing as clutch.  I know of at least two people who think some variation of this statement: A professor I had in graduate school who writes for a well-known and well-respected sports web site, and Bill James, who said there is no such thing as clutch hitting according to a Joe Posnanski blog post I read recently.  I don't want to take anything away from my professor or James, because both are incredibly intelligent individuals, but I respectfully disagree with the idea that clutch doesn't exist.

Think of the following four athletes:  John Elway, Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, and Derek Jeter.   They bled and practically lived clutch throughout their careers as professionals.  Granted I'm not using any advanced statistics, but it seems like when the chips were down, these players always came through.  

And with Jeter, you can look at what he's doing right now as evidence that clutch is real.  

Jeter's career is coming to a close.  He knows this.  I don't know him personally, but he must know this.  He's spent years and years (and likely even more years before that) playing the sport of baseball, and he's guaranteed just seven more games before he rides off into the sunset for good.  And it's showing in his hitting.  Jeter's triple slash for this weekend's 4-game series with Toronto, including today's game, was .471/.471/.765.  Entering play against the Blue Jays Thursday night, he had had 2 hits in his last 34 at bats.  His slugging percentage for the season, including today's game, is just .311.  

Jeter's performance this weekend is a testament to the fact that clutch exists.  A 40-year-old baseball player whose time is just about up suddenly starting to put up great numbers again after what's probably been the worst offensive season of his MLB career. He's performing well because there's pressure on him now, pressure, perhaps, to make the fans happy, get the team to the playoffs (as unlikely as that may be), to just play well at the end. Derek Jeter over the last four days is putting together a fantastic performance just as the curtain is about to close.  That's makes me think clutch exists.  

**Statistics used in this post came from, with most being calculated with a combination of baseball-reference stats and stats from's box score of today's Blue Jays-Yankees game.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Falcons' Victory Great, But It Doesn't Reach Historical Proportions

The Atlanta Falcons defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a final score of 56-14 on Thursday night in Atlanta.  Now it's just a guess, but the victory by the Dirty Birds could end up being one of the big blowouts, perhaps the big blowout, of the 2014 season.  But the Falcons still have some work to do if they really want to put a dent in the record books.  

-Two of the five biggest NFL blowouts from 1940 to now have happened in the last six seasons, with New England annihilating Tennessee 59-0 in 2009 and Seattle crushing Arizona 58-0 in 2012.  Hey, both of those games are shutouts! C'mon Atlanta!  You gave up two whole touchdowns!  You can do better.

-Only two NFL playoff games from 1940 forward have been decided by 50 points or more.  One is a blowout of Washington by the Chicago Bears and will be discussed further in a moment.  The other saw Jacksonville defeat Miami 62-7 on January 15, 2000. We're pulling for you Atlanta!  Make those playoffs and win a game by 50....  Or more!

-The biggest NFL blowout since 1940 was a 73-0 victory by the Chicago Bears over the Washington Redskins on December 8, 1940.  That's the same NFL game that is one of two NFL playoff games after 1940 decided by 50 or more.  Fifty-six points?  That's it Atlanta? You can hit 60. At least.

Keep practicing Matt Ryan and Devin Hester.  Perhaps your team will someday be owners of an all-time NFL blowout.

**Note-Even though this post is meant to be a joke, the facts are all accurate to the best of my knowledge.  And they came from pro-football-reference's Play Index, except for the score and location of last night's game.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Reexamining the 3000-Hit Club

Today is the one year anniversary of Ichiro Suzuki's 4000th professional baseball hit, a feat that caused people to recall their basic math skills and begin researching which players in baseball history stood on top of the hit plateau along with Ichiro.  Scott Simkus of put the total number of club members at nine after adding not only MLB and minor league hit totals but also hits from the postseason, Negro League play, and other professional leagues throughout history.  

So in trying to find yet another 4000-hit club entrant, I thought of an interesting way to honor Ichiro's anniversary: I added up the hit totals of all 28 players with 3000 or more MLB hits using statistics from

The most important result of my addition is that Tris Speaker was astoundingly close to being the tenth member of the 4000-hit club. He notched 3987 hits in 25 seasons in professional baseball, just 13 knocks shy of joining Ichiro, Derek Jeter, Minnie Minoso, and others as brothers in hitting. 

A second and much less significant finding of my addition is that many players got monstrous boosts from their minor league seasons. For example, in the three seasons he spent with the San Francisco Seals, Paul Waner amassed 609 hits, including 280 in his age-22 season with the Double-A club.  

There are some players on this list whose professional hit totals are not quite complete.  They have a listed season on with no hit totals for that season and are marked with an asterisk (*).  Hank Aaron's hit total is marked with two asterisks (**) because his hit totals as added up by me differ from those relayed by Scott Simkus.  Finally, some members of this list have no minor league seasons listed at all.  

So perhaps there is still some work to be done here since not all hit totals are 100% complete, but I think this is a pretty good start on a brand new way of looking at the 3000-hit club.

Number of Professional Hits
Number of MLB Hits
Pete Rose
Ty Cobb
Derek Jeter
Hank Aaron**
Stan Musial
Tris Speaker
Carl Yastrzemski
Wade Boggs
Rickey Henderson
Paul Waner
Eddie Murray
Nap Lajoie
Honus Wagner*
Cal Ripken
George Brett
Willie Mays
Cap Anson
Paul Molitor
Tony Gwynn
Eddie Collins
Rod Carew*
Rafael Palmeiro
Craig Biggio
Lou Brock*
Robin Yount
Dave Winfield
Roberto Clemente
Al Kaline

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Billy Beane, Can I Be On Your Little League Team?

If you've viewed this blog before, you might notice that I made some changes to it.  The first change is that I put up a new poll to the right of the page.  The second and most important revision that I made is to the title, switching it from "Matt's Sports News Blog" to "Billy Beane, Can I Be On Your Little League Team?"  A professor I had in graduate school suggested I make a change to the title, and I never did.  Until today.  

So why did I pick this title for my blog?  It's really about my career as a little league player.  I didn't consistently hit or field during my nine years as a baseball player.  I believe I only batted over .300 for the season once and I made what I think was a highlight-reel catch as a left fielder on a cloudy day, but I was never really a fantastic player.

But I did walk.  A lot.  And since it was little league, I also "stole" a lot of bases, moving up a base and making it home numerous times on what I now believe were passed balls and wild pitches (I'm unsure whether or not I ever had a true steal).  So I'm guessing that maybe I could have been a decent player on Billy Beane's little league team, which, to the best of my knowledge, is something I made up.  

Now I know Billy Beane's ideas, as discussed in Moneyball, aren't just about getting bases on balls. I read the book and have also read a few articles about it, one of which said explicitly that the text was about more than overweight and out-of-shape players who walk. 

And I understand that.  

So please don't take this title too seriously.  In my writing, I'm trying to improve, be creative, and have a little fun, all with a brand new title to my blog.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Golden Age of Field Goal Kicking?

If you're a football fan, there's a good chance you've gotten angry once or twice at a kicker who missed a field goal or extra point.  I'm sure I have.  I can't remember any specifics, but maybe I've just blocked them out of my memory.

I'm starting to think, though, that field goals aren't being missed all that often these days, at least as far as the NFL is concerned.

Take the records for all-time career field goal percentage.**  While Mike Vanderjagt and Nate Kaeding lead the way, a little more than two-thirds of the top 34 players on the leaderboard are active.

And of those 34, Vanderjagt was actually the first to retire, having taken his last kick in a not-so-long-ago 2006.

In addition, if you look at pro-football-reference's league leaders in field goal percentage by season for every year since 1938, you'll find that the top kickers broke the 90 percent barrier in field goals made just twice in the first 50 years on the chart.***  But no league leader in field goal percentage has failed to reach at least 90 percent in field goal conversions since way back in 1987, and six players, beginning with Tony Zendejas in 1991, have hit all of their field goals attempted over a full season.

In career extra point conversion percentage, ten of the top fourteen kickers are active (A kicker needs at least 1.5 extra point attempts for every scheduled game to qualify for this list). There are also six qualifying players who have never missed an extra point, and I'm sure it comes as no surprise that four of those players are still in the league.

True, one could argue small sample size for guys like Dan Bailey, Nick Folk, Connor Barth, and Ryan Succop, each of whom has a perfect extra point conversion record.  But consider the following names: Adam Vinatieri, Jason Elam, Morten Andersen, Jan Stenerud.  While each of those four missed at least one extra point by the end of his second season, Bailey, the least-experienced of any of the current extra-point conversion leaders by total number of seasons played, is 123 for 123 over three seasons in the NFL.

There are still some things missing, of course, like testimony from players and coaches about how far kicking has come (assuming they believe the art has advanced significantly). 

There's also the issue of making the extra point a longer try, which, presumably, would reduce kicker accuracy at least a little bit.  But perhaps we can see the experimentation with longer PAT attempts partly as evidence of how good these players have become.  That's why I think I have enough evidence to at least theorize that we're in the Golden Age of Field Goal Kicking.

*Note: All of the statistics used in this post came from  

**Note 2: In order to qualify for the pro-football-reference's all-time field goal percentage leaderboard, a player needs at least 100 career field goal attempts and "0.75 attempts per game scheduled."

***Note 3: In order to qualify for the league lead in field goal percentage in pro-football-reference's year-by-year leaderboard, a player needs "0.75 attempts per game scheduled."

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Chris Capuano Joins Exclusive Club

Pitcher Chris Capuano today joined an exclusive club of baseball players.  He didn't record his 3000th strikeout or win his 300th game.

Among members of the group he joined are: One Hall of Famer (Rickey Henderson), nine All-Stars (including Capuano), and a player whose last name would probably be first in an alphabetical listing no matter how many baseball player names you can find (David Aardsma).

One of the three Mike Stantons is on the list too (yes, I counted "Giancarlo" among the Stantons Mike) along with current Yankees broadcaster David Cone (which also marks the second David mentioned in this post if you happen to be keeping score).

So, just what is this group, exactly?  Well, today, Capuano became just the 21st player, and the thirteenth pitcher, to play for the Mets, the Yankees, and the Red Sox.

Yes, just like Bartolo Colon, Tony Clark, and John Olerud, Capuano is one of the few to have played for Boston, New York, and New York.  Is this as significant an achievement as having reached the 3000-strikeout plateau?  No.  Is it still pretty good? Yes.  Not everyone makes the majors, and fewer still get to play for three franchises that are so easily recognizable.  

So congratulations, Mr. Capuano, on your achievement and good luck in your Yankees tenure!

*All statistics and information used in this post came from

**You can find the full list of players who played for the Mets, Yankees, and Red Sox by clicking here, though Capuano has not been added to this list yet.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Which Starting Pitchers Should the Yankees Try For?

There are a few players the Yankees could pursue to fill their need for a starting pitcher, and three pitchers that, by contrast, I would suggest they not go after.  Let's start by separating those two groups from each other.

Pitchers the Yankees should leave alone:
1.  Cole Hamels
2.  David Price
3.  Cliff Lee

Pitchers the Yankees should go after:
1.  Bartolo Colon
2.  James Shields
3.  Ian Kennedy

Okay, so what's wrong with the first group?  Cole Hamels is having a good season, but he's owed waaaayyyyyy too much money.  His contract calls for $22.5 million per year from 2015 through 2018, along with two different options for 2019.  

The Yankees can pay someone else that much in the off-season without having to give up prospects.

Price?  He's young, he's not owed a ton of money, and he has a good strikeout-to-walk ratio ... but he is probably going to cost a lot in prospects.  In a New York Times article dated July 1, 2014, Jorge Arangure Jr. wrote of the Yankees trying to get Price, "they might not have the high-caliber prospects who would make a deal possible."

And Lee's coming off an injury, which should be a red flag to anyone.

So why might Colon, Kennedy, and Shields be good fits for the Yankees?

None of them would likely be very expensive, which is a plus.

Each would also provide a statistical upgrade to the rotation.  Here are the fielding independent pitching (FIP) and strikeout-to-walk ratios (K-BB) of Colon, Kennedy, and Shields compared to David Phelps, Shane Green and Chase Whitley.  They're written like slash lines for batters, like this: Player last name: FIP/K-BB ratio.  

Colon: 3.58/5.28
Shields: 3.80/4.04
Kennedy: 2.98/3.70

Phelps: 4.39/2.24
Green: 3.65/2.40
Whitley: 3.98/3.33

As you can see, the three players I said the Yankees should target are ahead in the majority of these stats.  That's why I think New York should go after them.  They're all doing well and could help the team.  

And should things go poorly, none of the three players are either owed all that much money or have a lengthy contract, so it wouldn't be a disaster.  But let's hope that if the Yanks do trade for any of these players, that things do go well and they end up helping the team.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Home Run Derby: Why I Think We Watch

Players hit balls.
Players hit balls far.
Players hit balls as far as they can.
Players hit balls as far as they can as many times as they can.

This is the Home Run Derby in a nutshell.  Baseball players take turns trying to hit as many home runs as possible before making seven "outs," with an "out" in this case being anything that is not a home run or a pitch taken by the batter.  Whoever hits the most home runs wins.

Well, I oversimplified the description a little bit, especially now that the rules have changed.  But the Derby winner does have to hit lots of home runs, and that's what I think makes the contest so great.

In fact, I think it's the number of home runs players hit that pulls me in personally as opposed to the distances.

Seeing Josh Hamilton hit 28 homers in a single round at Yankee Stadium back in 2008 was awesome.*  The laser show that Yoenis Cespedes put on last year was astounding.  And I'm looking forward to watching Cespedes and Giancarlo Stanton duke it out in a little more than an hour.

With all that said, I still hope the pair of sluggers, especially Stanton, hit the ball far.

So what's the real reason we (or at least I) love the Derby so much?

Without any specific research, I would guess it's some primal joy we have in watching a competition in which athletes use their abilities to repeatedly bash tiny objects long distances with sticks. A college professor of mine once assured me that certain physical exertions like crawling are part of human nature and I think it's sort of the same thing with the Home Run Derby.  

I could be wrong, of course, but pretty soon I'm not going to care all that much.  

It's almost time for the Derby and I want to watch.

*The number of home runs Hamilton hit in the first round in 2008 came from the article, "All eyes on Stanton in new-look Home Run Derby," by Anthony Castrovince.