Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Favre or Fiction

2 posts tonight, to make up for the general laziness of the last couple weeks. Enjoy!

In my wildest dreams, here's what we find out in the coming months, in 2 minutes or less:

July 14: (from the Associated Press) Vikings' coach Brad Childress reports today that Brett Favre is still undecided about returning to the NFL, and that there is still no deadline for Favre's return. It is widely assumed that Favre will rejoin the team after training camp is over.

August 15: (from the Associated Press) Now that training camp has ended, Brett Favre has yet to return to the Vikings. Sources close to the team indicate that he will likely rejoin the Vikings sometime next week.

August 17: (from the Minneapolis Star Tribune) Our Savior has returned! Not since the Jesus' early followers awoke that first Easter morning to the empty tomb, has a group been as excited to be reunited with their leader as the Vikings are to have Brett Favre back. The Vikings took pains this offseason to avoid taking a quarterback to please Favre. Minnesota passed on quarterbacks round after round in the draft (although they did draft one who will be converted to receiver), and chose to remain with Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson. This, they hoped, would indicate to Favre that the Vikings had no intention of pushing him out the door. All that was left was to hope and pray that Favre would return. And it looks like that strategy has paid off.

September 3: (from the Minneapolis Star Tribune) In a shocking move, it appears that Brett Favre has elected to re-retire. This is a surprise for everyone, but most particularly for Vikings' coach Brad Childress. "Since last winter, Brett and I had the understanding that this whole "retirement" thing was a ruse to allow him to skip training camp. I'm just beside myself." The other Vikings players felt much the same. "Total shock. Total and complete shock," was Jared Allen's only comment to the media. Favre released a statement ealier in the day, alerting EPSN, CBS, and several other major news outlets before informing his employer, the Vikings. He then read aloud the statement in a public press conference. "I believe that I have already given everything I have to give. I am now going to spend more time with my family, and more time golfing. I can't thank the NFL, the organizations I've played for, and my teammates and opponents enough for my many years of football. I will miss the game, but my retirement will be my complete severance from the game. Thank you." Favre did not take questions from reporters after delivering this prepared statement.

November 1: (from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) In the biggest show of loyalty perhaps in the history of professional team sports, Brett Favre announced in an interview last night with Bob Costas his intentions in playing for the Vikings. Here are some excerpted quotations from Favre:
"Well, sure. Ted [Thompson, Packers' GM] and I had an understanding. I was going to move on, help my statistics, and that was that."
"I know it seems sketchy, but the Packers were my team. And while I was in Green Bay, I learned to hate the Vikings. I actually agreed with the Packers before they let me go that I would never help either the Vikings or the Bears to win a Super Bowl, so I made sure of that last year. Remember that 'fumbled handoff' to Adrian Peterson? I hit it against his arm on purpose. And don't think that interception at the end of the NFC Championship Game was an accident."
"I figured the ultimate blow would be letting Minnesota think I was playing and string them along for as long as possible. Now, I couldn't retire mid-season-- that seemed too mean after all I've put them through, not that it didn't cross my mind. But right after the preseason seemed like it would sting the most."
A rush of crime in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area last night is blamed on Favre's confession.

The Exception to the Sabermetric Rule

A lot of times, if you are a believer in sabermetrics, as I am, you'll believe that, except in some very special circumstances (for example, a suicide squeeze in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game is really just a different matter, because maximizing run-production is not as important as a single run), some conventional baseball ways to "manufacture" runs are not the best ways to maximize run production. I'll condense the sabermetric rule here for you: outs are worth more than bases. That is to say, a trade of one out for one base is a bad trade. In fact, a base is not very valuable at all. Most sabermetricians will tell you all about what I'm going to write about today: that is, the stolen base. Now, conventional wisdom says that, if a guy is stealing around 60% of his bases, he's doing just fine. Well, sabermetrics would disagree. Sabermetricians state that you need at least a 2/3 success rate to just break even on run expectancy. Some estimates I have read put it as high as 80%(!!!), which I think it a little exaggerated, but the point is that if you have a player who stole 20 bases in 30 attempts, you probably would have scored just as many runs or more had that player attempted no stolen bases at all, and saved your team the ten outs. This makes a lot of sense, when you think about it, even if you don't want to see the math behind it. But there is one huge exception to this rule of not stealing bases unless you're good at it. That exception's name is: the 2010 Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox are currently 1/39 at throwing out base-stealers. That's right. approximately 97.5% of base-stealers are successful. Can you even believe that? Now, here's my theory: even if you take a player who's a mid-level base-stealer (say a 50% guy), when the defense is that bad, you might as well go for it. I mean, if they're going to allow you to steal that many bases, they might improve their percentage throughout the year, but unless there's a dramatic improvement in the Martinez/Varitek catching combo, this team, which is largely designed around sabermetric defense, will end up having a huge, huge hole on defense which will cost them any chance the had of the playoffs. Now, admittedly, I already think that they weren't going to make the playoffs (as you may remember from our baseball preview), but that's because of two factors: 1) I believe the Red Sox slightly overvalued defense in their offseason plans (having only pitching and defense may cover 40% of the game, but it's impossible to win baseball games without scoring runs). 2) More importantly, the Red Sox neglected to think about the age of their team. I don't understand how this oversight happens, but apparently it did. And it is a problem.

Let's assume the Red Sox can increase their percentage of throwing out runners tenfold. That means they'd throw out 25% of runners. Here's the scary thing, though. That would mean that, if their average is that low, that means an average baserunner should be able to steal bases at 75% (this is, obviously, an oversimplification, but bear with me). If this is true, then teams with speed should basically be running as soon as they get on base. It's hard to imagine that strategy backfiring with that low of a percentage of baserunner kills. So I say, run. It may not, in normal circumstances, the best choice, but this is definitely an exception.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Fighters Objective

David and I both like watching MMA, but I wouldn't say that we know a whole bunch about the sport. I've only recently started following WEC, Strikeforce, and Bellator, but I've been following the UFC since the beginning of the Ultimate Fighter television series. Because of that show, Spike replaying old UFC events, and the MMA live show on ESPN.com, I've developed a passion for the sport. I have not missed a UFC fight card since the Ultimate Fighter Season 1 Fight Night, which means I surely caught last nights card in Adu Dahbi. UFC 112 was a very stacked card that was highlighted by it's main event bout of Anderson Silva versus Demian Mia.

The card started off very well. Phil Davis showed how he deserves to be talked about as a future light heavyweight champion. Mark Munoz and Kendall Groove gave the fans in Adu Dahbi one of the best fights of the young UFC year. Kendall was on the edge of victory in the first round, but just could not finish the scrappy Munoz. Mark made Kendall pay in the second round showing his tremendous ground and pound game stopping the Ultimate Fighter winner 2:50 into the second round. DeMarques Johnson showed wicked knockout power in stopping Brad Blackburn in the third round which earned him knockout of the night and an extra $75,000. Renzo Gracie and Matt Hughes provided a compelling three round war between to legends of the sport. Renzo was the hometown favorite and Matt Hughes had to deal with a hostile crowd on top of fighting a man who in one fight let his arm break instead of tapping. Matt Hughes came out victorious with a TKO 4:40 in the final round. Though Renzo lost he did not disappoint his fans and everyone is looking forward to see Renzo back in the Octagon.

Frankie Edgar provided the UFC with it's Rocky moment of the year, though I believe it was not legitimate. Frankie Edgar was a 7:1 underdog going into his fight with BJ Penn. For those who do not know, BJ Penn is pound for pound one of the best fighters in the world. BJ Penn has been absolutely dominate in the 155 pound division. BJ has rolled through talented fighters like Joe Stevens, Kenny Florian, Diego Sanchez, and Sean Sherk. BJ's last lost going into his fight with Frankie Edgar was in 2002 to another legend in Jens Pulver. Frankie Edgar is a good fighter, but his talent level is not up to par as say a Kenny Florian or a Diego Sanchez, but Frankie Edgar was the next contender on the chopping block. Nobody had any reason to believe that BJ should lose this fight, but in the words of Chris Berman, "That's why they play the game." Frankie had a game plan and stuck to it. He used his speed to not stay in front of the powerful BJ Penn and mixed his takedown attempts with strikes which kept BJ off-guard. The fight went the distance, which gave Frankie the decision. However, if anyone watched that fight BJ still won that decision. Frankie did do a lot better than people thought BJ still had control in that fight and Frankie did little damage to clearly show that he deserved to be called the new champion. I don't want to take anything away from Frankie Edgar, but it's clear to me that the Frankie Edgar era will be short lived.

Though the decision for Frankie Edgar was controversial it was the fight between Anderson Silva and Demian Mia that provided the most controversy of the night. Anderson Silva is without a doubt the best fighter in the world. There is no question the Silva is the pound for pound king of the Octagon. Going into his fight with Mia, Silva won 10 straight fights and has defended his title five straight times. Anderson has destroyed the 185 pound division and has also defeated a former champion in the 205 pound division. The only negative thing against Anderson Silva has been his fight performance. In Anderson's first five fights none of them went past the second round. However, he recently has had two lackluster fights in the 185 pound division that went five rounds. The UFC had a lot invested in having Anderson Silva as their main event in their first event in Abu Dhabi. Whenever the UFC goes to a new market for the first time it is vital for them to put on a good show. Unfortunately many people think that objective was not accomplished due to Anderson's most recent performance. In the first round Anderson imposed his will showing that he was a class above Mia. It seemed like it was only a matter of time for Anderson to finish his fight with Demian, but it somehow went all five rounds. Anderson reached for his inner Ali, and started showboating and embarrassing his opponent. But, unlike Ali he did not finish his fight. Silva taunted, cursed, and in the later rounds ran away from his opponent causing a cascade of boos to shower down on Anderson Silva. The crowd even started chanting for Mia's name as well as GSP's name, who was not even involved in the fight. The fight upset UFC president Dana White so much that he left in the fourth round and did not put the belt on Silva at the end of the fight. After the fight Dana White let the press know his displeasure with Anderson Silva. Dana even mentioned that the super fight between Silva and GSP would be put on hold because Silva did not deserve a shot at GSP.

I can understand why Dana was upset, but I think he's overreacting. Anderson Silva is the most exciting fighter that the UFC has to offer. Nobody has more highlight moments than Anderson Silva. There is not a single fighter in the world who can do the things that Silva can. I think we all have been spoiled by Anderson Silva and we overreact when he doesn't have a highlight fight. Also, Dana White should be more disappointed in the rest of his fighters in the 185 pound division instead of Silva. As a champion your number one objective is to defend your title, and he's done that six straight times. It seems that most fighters are mentally defeated by Silva with in the first minute of the fight. All Anderson has to do is hit them one and the fight is all over. Why is that? Because when most fighters look at Silva they just see a lanky 185 pounder. He doesn't look like someone who can hurt you but after one punch fighters are in shock by the power and speed he displays in his strikes. Anderson has defeated every contender in the 185 pound division and honestly I just think he's bored. Dana White should not punish Silva by making him fight in the 185 pound division, when that is obviously bad for business. Since Silva is obviously head and shoulders above any one in his division, why not give a shot at his most difficult opponent. Anderson Silva versus George St. Pierre would be the biggest fight in UFC history. It doesn't matter what a fan may think of Anderson Silva they would definitely buy that fight. Anderson Silva versus George St. Pierre is the fight that every MMA fan wants to see just like in boxing everyone wants to see Manny versus Floyd. Dana White has publicly criticized boxing for not giving fans the fight they want to see, well isn't he doing the same thing. If Dana wants Anderson to be focused for a fight he has to provide him with a challenge. Basically having Anderson fight in the 185 pound division is like having LeBron James play basketball on a Fischer Price hoop. Give Anderson a challenge and I promise everyone will see a tremendous fight.

I'm not mad at Anderson Silva, but I am disappointed that he does not give his all in every match. However, I believe Dana White needs to challenge Anderson Silva and the fighters in the 185 pound division need to step their game up. Anderson Silva has one objective in each fight and that is to win. Based off of that...he is clearly doing his job.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Triple Crown Part II

I have to say-- if I had been allowed to major in baseball in college, I would have written my dissertation on the Triple Crown. I love it. It totally fascinates me. I know it's kind of a weird thing to love about baseball, especially since I'm a person who's getting more and more in advanced statistics and sabermetrics, but I just can't help myself. I mean, people pretty much only know who Joe Medwick is because he's the answer to a great trivia question (that being, "Who's the last player to win the Triple Crown in the NL?"). People are fascinated by Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby winning it twice. Every year, if there's a guy who's even remotely in that neighborhood, we ask each other, "Will this be the year?" It's just cool. In fact, I wouldn't even be surprised if many baseball fans knew the number of Triple Crowns (13) that have been won. If you haven't yet, you might want to check out my earlier post about what the most impressive Triple Crown may be.

Here's the thing about the Triple Crown though-- it's pretty arbitrary. I mean, it's not like the Triple Crown was going to be Doubles, Sac Flies, and Power-Speed Number-- but it didn't have to be AVG, RBI, and HR. In fact, I would say there were six legitimate contenders to be the Triple Crown stats, since they're all old and all useful. I call the the Almanac Stats, since they're usually the things you'll for-sure find in a sports almanac. Of course, the Triple Crown stats make up three of them: AVG, RBI, and HR. But the other three are common sense, as well: H, R, SB. I mean, when you think about it, why couldn't the Triple Crown have measured AVG, R, and HR? Why RBI? Or maybe it should have measured average, power, and speed: AVG, HR, SB. Or how about the ability to bring in runs: RBI, R, HR. There are actually 20 permutations of these statistics. So what did I do? I went ahead and discovered all the instances in which one of these "Alternative Triple Crowns" was won. I learned some pretty interesting stuff in the process, too.
The first thing that's important to know is the number. Earlier, I mentioned the 13 Triple Crowns with which everyone is familiar. Well, by this calculation, there have actually been 184 Triple Crowns-- 20 of them by Ty Cobb in 1909, when he led the AL in all 6 of the categories in question. Obviously, this creates a bit of a discrepancy, when one player accounts for over 10% of what we're counting. In that regard, I have a little explaining to do. Obviously, all leading all six categories would give one 20 Triple Crowns. Leading in only three categories would give a player only one. Those are clear. Leading in four categories would give one, conveniently, four. And, finally, leading in five categories would give a player 10 Triple Crowns. In case you're wondering, there have been a total of 78 players to win some sort of Triple Crown-- 35 in the NL, and 43 in the AL.

Here's the breakdown of the various ways in which people have led. First, all six categories:
  • Ty Cobb, 1909 (AVG, RBI, HR, H, R, SB)
Next is leaders in five categories:
  • Carl Yastrzemski, 1967 (AVG, RBI, HR, H, R)
  • Joe Medwick, 1937 (AVG, RBI, HR, H, R)
  • Rogers Hornsby, 1922 (AVG, RBI, HR, H, R)
  • Ty Cobb, 1911 (AVG, RBI, H, R, SB)
  • Nap Lajoie, 1901 (AVG, RBI, HR, H, R)
Note that Cobb is the only player above to lead in SB and not HR. His eight were second to Home Run Bakers eleven for the league lead. Also, he is, obviously, the only player above to fail to win the actual Triple Crown.

Moving on, here are the four-category winners:
  • Frank Robinson, 1966 (AVG, RBI, HR, R)
  • Mickey Mantle, 1956 (AVG, RBI, HR, R)
  • Stan Musial, 1948 (AVG, RBI, H, R)
  • Ted Williams, 1947 (AVG, RBI, HR, R)
  • Snuffy Strinweiss, 1945 (AVG, H, R, SB)
  • Ted Williams, 1942 (AVG, RBI, HR, R)
  • Chuck Klein, 1933 (AVG, RBI, HR, H)
  • Chuck Klein, 1932 (HR, H, R, SB)
  • Lou Gehrig, 1931 (RBI, HR, H, R)
  • George Sisler, 1922 (AVG, H, R, SB)
  • Rogers Hornsby, 1921 (AVG, RBI, H, R)
  • Ty Cobb, 1915 (AVG, H, R, SB)
  • Honus Wagner, 1908 (AVG, RBI, H, SB)
  • Ty Cobb, 1907 (AVG, RBI, H, SB)
Also note here that Cobb has been represented in every category. Another interesting thing of note is that the quality of the players has, in general, gone down. In the first category, Cobb was alone. This does not mean that Cobb is the best player of all time. It merely means that, in the first category, it would be extremely unlikely to have a season like that unless you were a Hall of Fame-type player, like Cobb. In the second category, there are a bunch of Hall-of-Famers, but of course the list also includes Joe Medwick, who was a good player who had a great 1937. He is in the Hall as well, but there are many who question his presence in Cooperstown. Next, in this category, while there are many Hall members present, there are a few conspicuous names showing up here that one probably wouldn't expect, like George Sisler (in the Hall, but, again, questionably), Chuck Klein (twice! And a Hall member by an even slimmer margin than Sisler, who was helped by a great park to hit in and had only 3 really good season-- albeit they were great), and, finally, Snuffy Stirnweiss-- the first non-Hall-member to show up. Stirnweiss entered the majors at 24 in 1943 (War-time replacement, anyone?). He played very well during the War (a "coincidence," I'm sure), and then, after back-to-back .300 seasons in 1944 and '45, became a .250 hitter. Stirnweiss may be as close to a hitting version of Hal Newhouser that there is: a guy who may have been a pretty decent player, but it's extremely difficult to tell because his prime coincides with WWII. I'll bore you with all 58 of the other Triple Crown winners:
  • Matt Holliday, 2007 (AVG, RBI, H)
  • Alex Rodriguez, 2007 (HR, RBI, R)
  • Albert Pujols, 2003 (AVG, H, R)
  • Alfonso Soriano 2002 (H, R, SB)
  • Ichiro Suzuki, 2001 (AVG, H, SB)
  • Todd Helton, 2000 (AVG, RBI, H)
  • Ken Griffey, Jr., 1997 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Dante Bichette, 1995 (RBI, HR, H)
  • Albert Belle, 1995 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Al Oliver, 1982 (AVG, RBI, H)
  • Mike Schmidt, 1981 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Rickey Henderson, 1981 (H, R, SB)
  • Jim Rice, 1978 (RBI, HR, H)
  • George Foster, 1977 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Rod Carew, 1977 (AVG, H, R)
  • Reggie Jackson, 1973 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Joe Torre, 1971 (AVG, RBI, H)
  • Tony Oliva, 1964 (AVG, H, R)
  • Hank Aaron, 1963 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Tommy Davis, 1962 (AVG, RBI, H)
  • Roger Maris, 1961 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Hank Aaron, 1957 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Al Rosen, 1953 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Stan Musial, 1952 (AVG, H, R)
  • Ted Williams, 1949 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Johnny Mize, 1947 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Stan Musial, 1946 (AVG, H, R)
  • Bill Nicholson, 1944 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Snuffy Stirnweiss, 1944 (H, R, SB)
  • Ted Williams, 1941 (AVG, HR, R)
  • Paul Waner, 1934 (AVG, H, R)
  • Lou Gehrig, 1934 (AVG, RBI, HR)
  • Jimmie Foxx, 1933 (AVG, RBI, HR)
  • Jimmie Foxx, 1932 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Chuck Klein, 1931 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Charlie Gehringer, 1929 (H, R, SB)
  • Babe Ruth, 1928 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Paul Waner, 1927 (AVG, RBI, H)
  • Babe Ruth, 1926 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Rogers Hornsby, 1925 (AVG, RBI, HR)
  • Rogers Hornsby, 1924 (AVG, H, R)
  • Babe Ruth, 1924 (AVG, HR, R)
  • Babe Ruth, 1923 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Babe Ruth, 1921 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Rogers Hornsby, 1920 (AVG, RBI, H)
  • Babe Ruth, 1920 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Babe Ruth, 1919 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Ty Cobb, 1917 (AVG, H, SB)
  • Gavvy Cravath, 1915 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Gavvy Cravath, 1913 (RBI, HR, H)
  • Heinie Zimmerman, 1912 (AVG, HR, H)
  • Sherry Magee, 1910 (AVG, RBI, R)
  • Ty Cobb, 1908 (AVG, RBI, H)
  • Cy Seymour, 1905 (AVG, RBI, H)
  • Harry Davis, 1905 (RBI, HR, R)
  • Nap Lajoie, 1904 (AVG, RBI, H)
  • Honus Wagner, 1902 (RBI, R, SB)
  • Jesse Burkett, 1901 (AVG, H, R)
Holy Babe Ruth! If you didn't read that whole list, I don't blame you, so here's the skinny: Babe Ruth a lot of times, Ty Cobb makes his customary appearance(s), and there are a whole lot of guys listed that you might not expect, like Matt Holliday, Alfonso Soriano, Al Oliver, Tony Oliva, Tommy Davis, Bill Nicholson, Sherry Magee, and Harry Davis. It's kind of a fun list, though. And I think there are some players and seasons worth remembering on here.

Here are some other random facts that you probably wouldn't have wanted to put together for yourself.

The most commonly won Triple Crown is, not surprisingly, the RBI/HR/R version. It has been done 33 times, first by Nap Lajoie in 1901, and most recently by Alex Rodriguez in 2007. Had this been the Triple Crown, Babe Ruth would have won six Triple Crowns, Ted Williams would have three, and Hank Aaron would have won two.

There are only two of the other versions which are more common than the one we recognize as the Triple Crown. One is AVG/RBI/H, with 21 occurrences (First by Lajoie in 1901 and most recently by Matt Holliday in 2007-- which, along with Alex Rodriguez that same season, is the most recent Triple Crown of any kind). The other, with 19 occurrences, is the AVG/H/R variety, done first by Lajoie in 1901 (of course) and most recently by Albert Pujols in 2003.

The AVG/RBI/R variety has been won 13 times, just like the traditional Triple Crown. It is also a very similar list to the traditional one. In fact, the two have 9 common seasons. This version, though, includes Sherry Magee (1910), Ty Cobb (1911), Rogers Hornsby's 1921 season (instead of 1925), and Stan Musial (1948). Those left off are Hornsby's aforementioned 1925 season, Chuck Klein (1933), Jimmie Foxx (1933), and Lou Gehrig (1934).

The AVG/HR/SB and RBI/HR/SB Triple Crowns have only been won once each: both (obviously) by Ty Cobb in 1909. No one has done it since. It's a good thing these were not chosen as the Triple Crown stats-- it would be a boring history.

In case you're wondering, it has happened fairly often that the winner of one of these Triple Crowns is also the MVP. In fact, since 1931 (since which time there has been an award given in each league, each season), there have been 46 instances of a Triple Crown of one sort or another. Of those, 22 have won the MVP (including eight consecutively from 1966-1981-- although Rickey Henderson was also a Triple Crown winner in 1981, but was not AL MVP). Here are all the Triple Crown MVPs, including the four from the time before the award's continuous existence:
  • Ty Cobb, 1911
  • George Sisler, 1922
  • Rogers Hornsby, 1925
  • Paul Waner, 1927
  • Chuck Klein, 1932
  • Jimmie Foxx, 1932
  • Jimmie Foxx, 1933
  • Joe Medwick, 1937
  • Stan Musial, 1946
  • Stan Musial, 1948
  • Ted Williams, 1948 (seriously-- what did this guy have to do to buy an MVP?)
  • Al Rosen, 1953
  • Mickey Mantle, 1956
  • Hank Aaron, 1957
  • Roger Maris, 1961
  • Frank Robinson, 1966
  • Carl Yastrzemski, 1967
  • Joe Torre, 1971
  • Reggie Jackson, 1973
  • George Foster, 1977
  • Rod Carew, 1977
  • Jim Rice, 1978
  • Mike Schmidt, 1981
  • Ken Griffey, Jr., 1997
  • Ichiro Suzuki, 2001
  • Alex Rodriguez, 2007
Pretty impressive list, huh?

Here's one just for fun. What if we took the exact opposite of the Triple Crown as we know it? Let's use H/R/SB:
  • Ty Cobb, 1909
  • Ty Cobb, 1911
  • Ty Cobb, 1915
  • George Sisler, 1922
  • Charlie Gehringer, 1929
  • Chuck Klein, 1932
  • Snuffy Stirnweiss, 1944
  • Snuffy Stirnweiss, 1945
  • Rickey Henderson, 1981
  • Alfonso Soriano, 2002
Pretty weird, no?

Now, there are three real possibilities, in my opinion, for what could have been chosen as the Triple Crown, rather than the one that was chosen. They basically involve substituting similar statistics for one another. One thing that I find particularly interesting about the Triple Crown is that AVG rather than H was chosen, since the other two are counting stats rather than rate stats. Had H been the dominant statistic, much of Triple Crown lore would have been the same, but there would have been some really, really interesting changes. Here would be the winners:
  • Nap Lajoie, 1901
  • Ty Cobb, 1909
  • Gavvy Cravath, 1913
  • Rogers Hornsby, 1922
  • Lou Gehrig, 1931
  • Chuck Klein, 1933
  • Joe Medwick, 1937
  • Carl Yastrzemski, 1967
  • Jim Rice, 1978
  • Dante Bichette, 1995
Personally, that appears to me like it could have reasonably been chosen as the "real" Triple Crown. Weird to think of Cravath, Rice, and Bichette as Triple Crown winners, though, isn't it? The second list would be using R instead of RBI. This produces another intriguing list:
  • Nap Lajoie, 1901
  • Ty Cobb, 1909
  • Rogers Hornsby, 1922
  • Babe Ruth, 1924
  • Joe Medwick, 1937
  • Ted Williams, 1941
  • Ted Williams, 1942
  • Ted Williams, 1947
  • Mickey Mantle, 1956
  • Frank Robinson, 1966
  • Carl Yastrzemski, 1967
You may notice that nine of the familiar 13 Triple Crown seasons appear here. The two additions would be Williams in 1941 and Ruth in 1924. Another option, certainly, would have been to take the logic of the last two lists and combine them. The result would be the H/R/HR Triple Crown. It's winners:
  • Nap Lajoie, 1901
  • Ty Cobb, 1909
  • Rogers Hornsby, 1922
  • Lou Gehrig, 1931
  • Chuck Klein, 1932
  • Joe Medwick, 1937
  • Carl Yastrzemski, 1967
As you can see, a lot of the "usual suspects" show up here again. In fact, there are only two that aren't "traditional" Triple Crown winners. In fact, though, they're the same players, only in different years (Gehrig won his actual Triple Crown in 1934, and Klein won his the following year, in 1933).

Finally, there is my favorite choice for what the Triple Crown should have been, as it is what would require the greatest variety of skills and is not reliant upon other teammates: BA/HR/SB. I mentioned this one earlier as a very fortunate one that was not chosen, as it's only been done once, of course by Ty Cobb in 1909.

If you'd like access to my spreadsheet which has all these data, shoot me an e-mail or leave a comment on this blog entry. All research performed on baseball-reference.com.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

College Hoops: State of the Union, 2010

Now, I'm not really the hoops guy on this blog. Don't get me wrong-- I love basketball. I'm just more passionate about baseball and football. Jordan's more of the basketball guy. But anyway, I think it's about time someone talked about the state of things in college basketball right now. So even though it's not my area, I'm going to tell you what I think:

1) I got 96 problems...

First, thank you to the song "99 Problems" for becoming an all-purpose, go-to lyric for "clever" titles. Anyway, seriously? Jordan and I spoke the other day about the tournament, and we were wondering at what point you just stop playing the regular season and start in the tournament. I mean, c'mon! Nobody wants this except the NCAA and Vegas, and that's only because they think they can make more money. Here's my question, though: is this the move that finally alienates the fans? And plus, it throws coaching out of wack. I mean, what do you say if a coach takes his team to the tournament year after year after year, and they lose in the "second round," which will now consist of 64 teams? That'll look okay on their coaching record (they'll be 1-1 in the tourney), but that doesn't really mean anything. What I'd like to see is for the NIT to start inviting the top teams for the NCAAs. I would like to see someone try to win both tournaments. Frankly, the NCAAs are a joke. It would be better if the NIT shrunk it back to 16 teams, or 8 teams, and only invited the top teams in the country, so that there couldn't be some ridiculous pretenders winning two games and pushing out good teams. I'm not talking about Northern Iowa or Butler, by the way, but I'll cover that in my next point. I'm talking about teams like George Mason, when they went to the Final Four-- a bad team who snuck by.

2) Duke Winning: Good for College Basketball?

Here's the thing- I grew up hating Duke. Like any good child my age, I knew that I had to pick between liking North Carolina and Duke, and I picked UNC. They had more compelling players. They were more fun to watch. And they looked like they were having fun playing basketball, and not like the Duke kids who looked like they were forced into slave labor or something. When UNC won, they looked happy. When Duke won, they looked relieved. Now, should I love the "team" atmosphere around Duke? Should I like that they work hard? That they're unapologetically consistent? That they don't care what people think about them? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. But you know what? I drew my line in the sand long ago. I couldn't stand the team that was good every year. It's like how I hate the Yankees, the Lakers, the Cowboys, Notre Dame football, Florida State football, and Miami football. Notice the three programs I listed for football, though. Here's the thing: I've lost the hate. Now, they're jokes to me. I've made as many Charlie Weis jokes as anyway, but that's just because Ralph Mangino jokes aren't as funny since no one knows who he is. Plus, now it turns out he chokes people or whatever. Anyway, I think that Duke winning is good, so that I can keep hating them. I like that about college sports. It's fun to have teams you love and teams you hate. Now, admittedly, I was having fun making fun of Duke for their recent choke-jobs in the Sweet Sixteen, but here's the thing: Duke was never a program that I made fun of. That's for programs that aren't the mighty Duke. Duke is just The Enemy. So, am I happy about Duke winning the National Championship game? No. Absolutely not. I wanted to see Butler absolutely stomp them. But, you know what? I'm not as upset about it as I would have been in years past. They're just trying to keep the drama alive in our relationship, and I appreciate it.

3) The Rise of the Mid-Major

Finally, it's here. College basketball has gotten to ignore this for too long. I mean, look at college football. Now, are the higher-ups still in denial? Yes. But they (kind of) give those teams a chance. At least, they keep them competitive until the end, and people are willing to rank mid-majors in the top 10. College hoops, though? They've been living in a dream world in which Gonzaga is the only relevant mid-major. True, Gonzaga has a good program. But here's the thing: is Butler really any better or worse than, say, Purdue? Or South Carolina? Or USC? Or any one of about a thousand schools that seem to make the tournament, beat and overwhelmed opponent, and then lose to a better team? There's no difference. Really, what happened this year is that Butler was a top-5 team in the country (as were Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and Syracuse). They should have probably garnered a 2 seed-- maybe a 3, if you're skeptical. But they lost a couple of games in their conference, so as a mid-major, that meant they were a nobody, right? Wrong. Wake up, people-- the Horizon League has a lot of good teams and players. This isn't 8 years ago-- you don't need to go undefeated in a mid-major conference to prove you're a good team. Here's the thing about basketball talent: it's spread out all over. There are so many talented players, and too many schools. So, if given the choice between riding the pine for Duke or starting for 4 years and being a god at Butler, what would you do? All I'm saying is, it's no surprise that a lot of really, really talented players are opting for the lesser-named schools. If I knew I were D-1 scholarship level, but I didn't have pro teams already breathing down my neck, I know where I'd go. I'd go where I could have four amazing years of college, and hopefully make a run or two in the tournament. It's an amazing opportunity. Honestly, it's not that hard to imagine the power shift happening in college hoops just like it's happening in college pigskin-- too many good players, not even big-name schools. All of this just means that the "traditional powers" need to start growing eyes in the back of their heads, on the back of their palms, on their ankles, and everywhere else they can, because the mid-majors are absolutely for real. And it's about time.

4) It has to be said

Rarely will you read Jordan or me say anything about women's sports. It's not that we're sexists-- it's just that we haven't grown up following those things, and following them takes a lot more effort than we're willing to put forward. I mean, I don't even follow the NHL, because I didn't grow up in a hockey town. So sue me. I say, it's the fault of the sports media. However, the UConn women's basketball team does merit a lot of mention here, because you'd have to be living under a rock not to know about "the streak." I think it's commendable. If I were coaching them, I think I'd be bored, but that's just me-- and really, that's beside the point. I just want to congratulate the Huskies for their tremendous accomplishment. I'm not going to argue about whether it's good or bad for women's basketball, and I'm not going to critique their run or worry about them winning by "only" six points (ending the double-digit-margin-of-victory streak). I just think it's impressive, and deserves mention in a "State of the Union" sort of column.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The End

Eagles decided to trade their franchises best QB to their division rival for a 2010 2nd round pick and a 2011 conditional pick. To say that this is the dumbest trade in Philadelphia sports history would be a huge understatement. The Eagles did not just trade a quarterback, but they traded away a tradition of winning. Ever since the turn of the new millenium the Eagles have been associated with organizations like the Patriots, Colts, and Steelers as gold standard franchises. In the past the Eagles were able to let go of key players like Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor, and Hugh Douglas and not miss a beat. However, it seems that the organization has over played it's hand. The Eagles are in the transition of being ran by new management. The Eagles have a new GM and he has decided to clean house. The Eagles have let go a league high of 12 players and in half of an off-season the Eagles went from a veteran team to the youngest team in the NFL, and for what? Talk about knee jerk reaction. I know nobody in Philadelphia was happy about losing to the Cowboys three times in the season, but I don't think that's a reason to blow up the entire team.

I thought the Eagles would have learned their lesson about premature decisions after mistakenly letting go of Brian Dawkins last year. Brian Dawkins (the Wolverine) was supposed to be over the hill but all he did was go to the Pro Bowl and become the leader of a revamped Broncos defense. Now the Eagles will go into next season with essentially a rookie QB and low expectations. For ten years the Eagles have been super bowl contenders and now that is all gone. I know there are a good number of Eagles fans who where happy to see McNabb go but I wonder if those fans really understand how special McNabb was to the Eagles franchise. Before McNabb and after Randal Cunningham the Eagles went through QBs the way the Lions go through receivers. I remember this vividly because I started watching the Eagles in 1995. From then until Donovan was named the starter, the Eagles had QBs like Bobby Hoying, Rodney Pete, Ty Detmer, Koy Detmer, and Doug Peterson. I'm not kidding-- these guys were the face of the Eagles franchise. I remember when the Eagles let Bobby Hoying take the keys of the car away from Rodney Pete after he helped lead the Eagles to a 11-5 season. Bobby was the young guy with a big arm and was considered a more accurate QB. Everyone in Philly thought that this guy was going to lead the franchise for the next ten years, but he barely made it out of two seasons. Now I don't think that will be Kevin Kolb, but I wonder if this is just wishful thinking.

I really hope that the organization has done their homework and that they are not making this decision because Kolb threw for over 400 yards against the Chiefs. Kolb has a lot of pressure on his shoulders and nobody knows how he will handle that. Kolb does have great physical attributes but nobody knows how good his intangibles are. The one thing that is vastly underrated about McNabb is his way to keep his cool no matter the situation. Donovan is the kind of guy who could smile even if he was being car-jacked. Donovan never let the media, the city, or opposing defenses get to him. I mean yes he had bad games, but everyone is human. McNabb never looked rattled and that is a must for a QB to be successful in Philadelphia. Not only will Kolb have to deal with the pressure of playing in Philly, but he also has the pressure of playing in the same division as Donovan for the next several years. Not only does Kolb have to win in Philly but he has to be better than Donovan in Washington. Even if Kolb goes 15-1 in his first season, if Donovan and the Redskins win the Super Bowl with Donovan as the MVP everyone in Philly would consider the decision to let McNabb go a failure. Playing in Philadelphia is a unique situation and not everyone is built for that situation. Kolb's success basically comes down to how he handles playing in the most hostile sports town in America.

As for McNabb, his John Elway comparison becomes even more intriguing now that he's playing for the coach that was able to help Elway win two titles at the end of his career. Furthermore, Donovan will no longer have to throw the ball 5o times a game. Mike Shanahan prides himself on running a balanced offense which means his team will actually run the ball. This will be a foreign concept to Donovan, but I think he'll get used to it. Donovan's down fall will come if the O-line does not improve. Donovan should stay healthy with the balanced offense and the defense was very good last year, so with that taken into consideration there is no reason why Washington shouldn't improve next year. Which, again leads back to my original point of the stupidity of this deal.

I know the Eagles are saying that they traded Donovan to Washington to put him in a good situation to win, but c'mon. No franchise would put their own success in jeopardy just to make a former player happy. Thus, the Eagles traded Donovan to Washington because they think he's done. The Eagles again feel that younger is better, but to quote R-Kelly "Age ain't nothin' but a number." I do believe Donovan did make his 6th pro bowl last year did throw over 3,000 yards and 20+ TDs and again had one of the best QB ratings in the league. So, I have to believe that those last two games against Dallas is a major part of why they let him play for a division rival. Kolb's last image in the season was positive and Donovan's image was negative, and I think that influenced the front office's decision. Despite his last image, he still is an elite QB. The Eagles just made it that much harder for them to win the division or even make the playoffs as a wild card. The Eagles went from having the best QB in the division to having the worst QB in the division. The Redskins on the other hand did the exact opposite and that will probably show in their record at the end of the season.

I have been a Philadelphia sports fan for approximately 15 years and I have seen a lot of things in my life. Trading Donovan McNabb to Washington was by far the dumbest thing I have ever seen a Philadelphia franchise do. At least when the Sixers let Iverson go, he went to the Western Conference and the Sixers were not going to be setting the world on fire whether they had AI or not, so trading him was not a bad move. When the Flyers traded Eric Lindros to the Rangers I questioned the Flyers for trading a franchise player within the division, but it was a smart move. Lindros was already over the hill and he was another hit away from going into a coma, so having Lindros play as a ranger was weird but understandable. When the Phillies sent Schilling on his way to Arizona, the Phillies were at the bottom of the division and had no business holding Schilling back from playing with a contender. Again not a dumb move. I really hope the Eagles know what they are doing, but right now I can't say that they do.