March 9, 2011

New Digs

by Jeeves

Hey everyone (especially you StumbleUpon-ers),

We’ve moved to some new digs! You can find all of this content as well as all of our new content at www.theiinteamblog.com

It’s the same site as before, just minus the wordpress, so please update your bookmarks accordingly.

-Jeeves and Npiller88

March 9, 2011

An Additional Opinion on the MVP Race: Dirk Nowitzki

by Jeeves

I realize that talking about the MVP race is hardly groundbreaking blogging, but it is something that I want to address as the NBA season enters its last quarter. If I had it my way, the league’s MVP would simply be the best player in the league. Such a simple pronouncement takes out a lot of the opaqueness of the award and sets is up, in a historical sense, as a great barometer of whom, at any point, was amongst the best in the league. That isn’t to say that the MVP doesn’t do that now, (it does to a certain degree), but it’s often muddled by other factors. Wes Unseld was a great player; he’s a hall of famer. I don’t, however, think that he was ever amongst the very best players in the league, yet he won an MVP award. He won due to other vaguer factors that people often attribute to the award, such as which player if removed from his current team would see his team fall the farthest. I’m not trying to say one way or another if that’s the right way to look at the MVP, because there is no right way. The rules governing the voting aren’t exactly clear.

So with that at mind, I want to take a look at each MVP candidate through the prism, that it seems, most sports writers look through. That means I’ll take equal parts sheer basketball awesomeness, ability to raise teammates play, and irreplaceability (new word!) on their team. I’ll also take into account general development in comparison to past years, while de-emphasizing W-L record.

As I see things today, if I had a ballot, I would go:

1) Dwight Howard

2) Dirk Nowitzki

3) Derrick Rose

4) Lebron James

Each day this week, I’ll take a look at a different candidate, starting from the top and working my way down. Today let’s take a look at Dirk.

2.) Dirk Nowitzki

This was a tough call for me. The way I see it Rose and Nowitzki are both very close in the MVP race, at least in my eyes. The Bulls fan in me yells Rose, Rose, Rose, but if I am truly objective, I have to have Nowitzki at 2A and Rose and 2B.

The thing that immediately jumps off the page with Dirk is his shooting. He is hitting an astounding percentage of his shots. For the season he’s hitting 53% from the field and 42.5% from 3pt land which are both career highs. Amongst starters (say people who have played at least 40 games and average at least 30 minutes), he has the second highest shooting percentage of non-centers. That’s pretty absurd considering how many outside shots he’s taken. He averages 3.3 shots  from 10-15 feet and shoots 51% on them, 6.2 shots from 16-23 feet and makes an astonishing 54%, as well as 2.5 3-pointers a game. He truly is an offensive force at any spot on the court. He creates match-up problems every game which opens up shots for his teammates, especially in the pick and roll.

One of the main knocks about Dirk throughout his career is that he’s soft and not good at defense. This notion isn’t exactly true. He struggled a bit early in his career, but has always been a slightly above average defender. He’s not great and he won’t necessarily lock down your best post player, but he’s serviceable and certainly is not a detriment to his team. Defensive rating is a stat that tries to account for the number of points a player gives up per 100 possessions. The stat isn’t perfect, but it provides a tool to, at least, try and gauge these types of things. Dirk currently as a DRtg of 105. League average is 107 (and, obviously, the lower the rating, the better), which shows that Dirk is no Dwight Howard, but is still adding value on that end of the court.

Another way to analyze things is to look at Dirk’s time on the court vs his time off of it. According to basketballvalue.com, the Mavs are 18.00 pts per 100 possessions better with Dirk on the court. This represents the second highest total in the league, and accounts for both defense and offense. Also, looking at 82games 5-Man Unit breakdowns, you can see that the Mavs’ best offensive lineup includes Dirk, as does its best defensive lineup. You don’t even need advanced stats to see Dirk’s effect on the team. When he missed 9 games due to injury, the Mavs went 2-7. They lost to such lightweights as Toronto and Milwaukee. There’s the age old question of how much worse would the team be without (insert player). Though it represents a tiny sample size, it seems the Mavericks would be far, far worse.

It kills me to do it,  but Dirk, for now, gets the slight edge over Rose for the 2-spot in my rankings. The biggest deciding factor for me is just the pure efficiency with which Dirk scores. I’ll go into it in more depth tomorrow when I talk about Rose.

March 9, 2011

Ohio State Crumbling Under Pressure of Own Obsession

by npiller88

Never sell that red sweater, Jim

Ohio State football has a booster problem.

It also has legal problems. And honesty problems. And NCAA infraction problems.

We already knew that prominent Buckeye players sold memorabilia, which is against NCAA rules, obviously.

But what’s the real problem? Simply, the priorities of the community. No individual could have made this more clear than Ohio State University President Gordon Gee, who commented in response to today’s revelation that Head Coach Jim Tressel knew about violations that had transpired, and kept quiet. When asked whether Coach Tressel’s job was in danger, Gee had this to say:

No, are you kidding? Let me be very clear. I’m just hoping the coach doesn’t dismiss me.

Come on Columbus. This isn’t Texas high school football. It may be that Ohio State football is the most important source of revenue for the university. But wow. What a thing to say. Tressel, who is being fined a quarter million dollars for not revealing information implicating several of his star players in an illegal sale of memorabilia to a shady tattoo parlor owner, probably could have bent over in front of Gee and said: “kiss it,” without being concerned for his job. Still don’t believe me? Let’s not forget, Tressel has been rewarded handsomely for his success at Ohio State (a 106-22 record in ten years), to the tune of nearly 4 million dollars per year. A quarter mil is a lot, but is it really that much when the biggest impact the fine has is that you will have a couple less fireplaces to stuff excess cash into?

I’m hesitant to slam Tressel, because he really seems like a nice guy. In contrast to the screaming drill sargeant archetype of college football coaches, he is relatively soft-spoken and respectful. He seems to channel his devout Christian beliefs positively rather than in a sanctimonious, abrasive fashion (which is often the norm). We saw this when he agreed to be interviewed by Columbus’ local LGBT magazine (an advocacy publication), and even stated that “whatever a young man feels called to express, I hope we will help him do it in a supportive environment,” when asked if an openly gay football player would be accepted by the players in the locker room.

But glancing at the numbers gives me pause. Since 2000, Ohio State has reported over 375 rules violations (albeit most of them fairly minor). That’s the most of any school that provided records for a Columbus Dispatch Freedom of Information request, and we’re talking about 69 programs. It seems like Tressel’s top players are always getting in trouble with the law or the NCAA. Remember Maurice Clarett, the freshman star of the 2002 national title team? How about Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith? Both were suspended after taking money from boosters.

Could this just be an unlucky rash of improprieties in a sport replete with them at nearly every level? Sure. But it could also be a sign that football fans in Columbus Ohio should try and put things in perspective. If memorabilia is really so valuable on the local open market that gang and drug involved tattoo parlor lords are cutting fat checks to get their hands on them (or fat wads of cash, as is probably more likely), then maybe the problem isn’t Tressel or the athletes, its the fans. The violations showcased stupidity on the part of the players, but that stupidity was born of opportunity, and that opportunity was created by obsession.

Certainly, these problems are widespread across major Division I football programs. But Ohio State particularly seems to have trouble getting the boosters to keep their grimy hands off the players. Tressel gets a suspension, and so do the players. But the jury is still out on whether behavior will actually change.

Let the arguments for paying players commence, once again.

March 8, 2011

An Additional Opinion on the MVP Race: Dwight Howard

by Jeeves

I realize that talking about the MVP race is hardly groundbreaking blogging, but it is something that I want to address as the NBA season enters its last quarter. If I had it my way, the league’s MVP would simply be the best player in the league. Such a simple pronouncement takes out a lot of the opaqueness of the award and sets is up, in a historical sense, as a great barometer of whom, at any point, was amongst the best in the league. That isn’t to say that the MVP doesn’t do that now, (it does to a certain degree), but it’s often muddled by other factors. Wes Unseld was a great player; he’s a hall of famer. I don’t, however, think that he was ever amongst the very best players in the league, yet he won an MVP award. He won due to other vaguer factors that people often attribute to the award, such as which player if removed from his current team would see his team fall the farthest. I’m not trying to say one way or another if that’s the right way to look at the MVP, because there is no right way. The rules governing the voting aren’t exactly clear.

So with that at mind, I want to take a look at each MVP candidate through the prism, that it seems, most sports writers look through. That means I’ll take equal parts sheer basketball awesomeness, ability to raise teammates play, and irreplaceability (new word!) on their team. I’ll also take into account general development in comparison to past years, while de-emphasizing W-L record.

As I see things today, if I had a ballot, I would go:

1) Dwight Howard

2) Dirk Nowitzki

3) Derrick Rose

4) Lebron James

Each day this week, I’ll take a look at a different candidate, starting from the top and working my way down:

1. Dwight Howard

In basketball, it seems that people put about 70% of the emphasis on offense. If I afforded that same emphasis to my analysis, Howard would still be amongst the MVP candidates but certainly not at the top. The way I see it, defense is truly half of the game, therefore it should be treated as such when evaluating a player on their individual production. Howard is probably the premier defensive force in the league. He’s the two-time and by the end of the season will likely be the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. I realize past awards don’t have any bearing on current awards (at least they shouldn’t, ahem, writers tired of giving Michael Jordan the MVP), but it does corroborate my thoughts on Howard’s defense in a traditional sense. There are some advanced statistics that try to quantify defensive contributions that also support my argument that Howard is the best defender in the league. He towers over the competition in defensive win shares, which is a statistic that tries to quantify how many wins through the current season a player’s defense has contributed. Howard is currently at 5.8 with Kevin Garnett in second at 4.2. (To understand how large that gap is, the difference between KG in second at 4.2 and Al Horford who ranks twentieth with 3.1 win shares is only 1.1). He’s dominating on the defensive end as always; his team is wholly dependent upon him. He typically sees the floor with three to four perimeter based players of varying defensive reputations, from indifferent (Gilbert Arenas) to liability (Hedo Turkoglu) to decent (Brandon Bass). Despite those around him, the Magic give up the 5th fewest amount of pts per game.

Defense isn’t the only place where Dwight is producing. He’s always put up nice numbers on the offensive end, but this year he’s really stepped it up a notch. His scoring is up nearly 5pts to 23.1 ppg, which is a pretty fantastic jump in production. He’s also been able to extend his range, upping his shots from 3-9 feet by 1.2 shots while increasing his shooting percentage from that range. Even with this jump, he’s remained as proficient as always from the field (60%). He’s even upped his rebound totals by .7 to 13.9 a game.

He even rates out well when looking at the team aspect of this all. There’s no doubt, at all, that his team would suffer drastically without him; they are, after all, built around his unique talents. His teammates are pretty good, contrary to some of the groundswell these days purporting them to be on the level of the 2001 76ers’ supporting cast, but they are not world beaters. Of the 4 MVP contenders I have ranked, I’d say his supporting cast is the weakest (with more weight placed on fellow starters than end of the bench).

The totality of Dwight’s season puts him in the driver’s seat, in my eyes, for the moment.  I still have to qualify my thoughts by saying for the moment. There’s a big ugly black mark on his resume; he has racked up an obscene number of technical fouls. He’s had so many that he tripped the automatic suspension barrier and had to miss Monday’s game. From here on out, every other technical earns him a one game suspension. His team is currently fighting for playoff seeding, so if he continues to get T’d up and continues to miss games, I’d have no recourse but to penalize him.

March 8, 2011

What Really Goes On at BYU?

by npiller88

not even once?

Maybe I’m just not wholesome enough. Maybe its because I’m a satanic Angeleno. Or that I was born in Oakland, CA. Or that I went to high school in San Francisco. That’s a long way from Provo, Utah.

But for the love of Moroni, I just can’t wrap my head around the media reaction to the near-expulsion of BYU stud center Brandon Davies for premarital sex.

Most major media outlets have PRAISED it.

Why, just peruse Time Magazine, which lauded BYU as a school that “sticks by its principles.” ESPN, ever wary of offending its core middle America demographic, had the most despicable reaction, or should I say “non-reaction.” Now, I’m not surprised that ESPN’s Skip Bayless scolded the average fan for viewing BYU’s standards as “laughably unrealistic” (sounds about right). I’m not surprised he speculated that “I’m not sure what Brian Davies did,” (his name is Brandon) “but I can tell you this, it wasn’t a misdemeanor.” (actually, it was below a misdemeanor. It was a hormonal indiscretion). He went on to say that “It’s not like someone spotted Davies’ sipping a coffee at Starbucks and snapped a picture of it.” Nope, that didn’t happen. He just had sex with his girlfriend, something we can assume Skip views as a felony, according to the logic above. Maybe this is just because Bayless is a self-satisfied scumbag, who I would guess would fit in nicely with the latter day saints (as seen in his less-than-subtle suggestion that Troy Aikman is gay, in his 1996 book “Hell Bent,” not mention his everyday douchbaggery on ESPN’s first take).

But when ESPN’s Chris Broussard chimed in on the same program (“First and Ten”), I had to do a double take to make sure it wasn’t Newt Gingrinch on the screen speaking in Broussard’s oddly articulate ghettoish drawl. It was as if Broussard had been taken in off the streets as a child by a Mormon priest, the way he gushed:

I like their rules. I like the fact that when most programs on their level will sell their soul…to win games, they’re saying there are certain things more important than the game.

Broussard gave the BYU administration EXACTLY what they were looking for when they decided (in 24 hours) to penalize Davies. If any ESPN personality would offer up some sympathy for Davies, I thought it might be Broussard, who seems cognizant of the stereotypes that swirl throughout college and the NBA about black players. He’s worked in Cleveland, New York, grew up in Baton Rouge.. certainly an educated young black man. Why is he praising BYU? As you might guess of a school affiliated with a church that endorses a scripturally-based racial hierarchy, BYU has trouble recruiting black players. And prior to this season, they kicked Michael Lloyd Jr. (their last prominent black player) off the team, for underage drinking.

There's a reason the black kid doesn't want to show his face

Please don’t get confused. I’m not pulling the race card. I’m just saying I was surprised that Broussard would be so eager to praise the “rules.” It’s all very suspicious. ESPN’s First and Ten program asks a panel a series of questions, and each one is displayed at the bottom of the screen as it is discussed. The question was, “Unrealistic Expectations in BYU Honor Code?” And they bring in two panelists who essentially say the same thing: “No.” As I got finished pulling the last clump of hair off of my scalp, I wondered to myself, why even ask the question, if you already know the answer you want to use…?

It’s almost as if there’s a BYU mafia operating behind the scenes (or an Illuminati?), because critics have changed their tunes pretty rapidly. Look at Amar’e Stoudamire, who tweeted:

Don’t ever go to BYU, They kick a Young Educated (Black) Brother OUT OF SCHOOL. The kid had premarital secks. Not suspended, Not Release. Wow! P.S. With his girlfriend. Come on BYU don’t kick the kid out of school. Let’s be honest he is in college. Let’s the kid live a little. #AntiBYU

Ok, so Amare was wrong about one thing, it wasn’t an outright expulsion. But he was right about another: “Don’t ever go to BYU.”

*shudder*

Still, the Illuminati, or the Knights Templar, take your pick, must have gotten to him, since he followed up that gem with this stinker, just 24 hours later (those Mormons work quickly!):

I totally understand the actions of BYU, It totally respect the school an the conduct rules. BYU has a great athletic program.

But I’ll just assume, for the moment, that each panelist and tweeter was completely honest, and that this has nothing to do with the demographics of ESPN”s wide viewership, or in Amar’e’s case, the fact that Mormons buy sneakers too. So if BYU’s actions are surely justified and even the Israel-visiting, New York heathen, college-skipping, unmarried likes of Amar’e “totally understand” them, the questions becomes: What is life at BYU really like? If everyone lives by the code, Davies sealed his own fate when he accepted the scholarship. But I have an teeny-weeny feeling that not everyone lives by the code, and not everyone gets ratted out. We’ll look deeper after the jump

Continue reading

March 7, 2011

“The World is Better Now Since the Heat is Losing”

by Jeeves

 

The title of this post is a direct quote from Dwyane Wade after the Heat’s latest “heart-breaking” loss to the Bulls. To me, it perfectly sums up the Heat and their legacy, to date. It’s deliciously self-centered and absurdly over the top.

Before jumping into the psyche of the Miami Heat, let’s take a look at some interesting facts. The Miami Heat’s record currently stands at 43-20 amidst a 4-game losing streak. Not bad, but not great. To put it in perspective, the Heat need to finish the season 19-0 to beat the Cleveland Lebron’s record from last season. It’s really quite incredible. The sum of the parts in Miami (Lebron+Wade+Bosh+the rest) will amount to less than the sum of the parts in Cleveland (Lebron+1/2 a season of Jamison+yeaaah, the rest). That’s all a far cry from their grand aspirations and the lofty predictions (will shatter the Bulls 72-10 record) of the pundits. The Heat are a great team against the dregs and the also-rans of the league. It’s against the upper-tier where they struggle. They are 1-9 against the Spurs, Mavs, Lakers, Celtics and Bulls, the 5 teams who appear to be their chief rivals in the quest for a championship. If you take out those 10 games from their schedule, they are scoring 8.5 pts per game more than their opponents. They’re basically blowing everyone else out. (As a point of comparison, the 1995-1996 Bulls had an average margin per game of about 12 points, against all comers).

Under normal circumstances, people would point to the fact that this team is still figuring out how to play with each other. People would note that beyond the Two and a Half Men, their isn’t much of a supporting cast and that it’s only a matter of time before they figure out some successful late game sets. This isn’t a normal situation, though. Instead of tempering expectations due to a litany of reasons, people (myself included) are enjoying the Heat’s struggles with a fiendish glee. You know what? I think we are fully justified in enjoying their misery. When a <del>team</del> trio takes to the stage in such an appalling manner, to celebrate the pure awesomeness of their union, they are not allowed to be offended when there’s a righteous backlash against them. When a troika of individuals proclaim themselves ready to win EIGHT championships, they are not allowed to bemoan their ‘us vs the world’ predicament. When a threesome of egotists start referring to themselves as the Heatles, they are not allowed to seek sympathy through the media. The Heat have sown the seeds of ill-will and hate and have to deal with the consequences. My advice to them: suck it up, and stop whining to the media that no one loves you. If you want the media and basketball fans around the country to stop feasting on your tears, then man up, stop crying and figure out how to win a close game. Until them we’ll all enjoy their tears of unfathomable sadness.

 

March 4, 2011

Unforgivable: Premarital Sex and Pot in College

by npiller88

the face of a cold-blooded criminallock him up and throw away the key

I am outraged.

First it was BYU star hoopster Brandon Davies having sex with his girlfriend. Now Washington State star guard Klay Thompson gets caught with nearly two grams of marijuana. Davies was kicked off the team for the time being (and is being sent to counseling, thank heavens), and Thompson has been suspended indefinitely. I know, I know, I was wondering the same thing: No lethal injection or death by firing squad?

These schools have gone soft. I remember when even heavy petting wasn’t tolerated at BYU. And if Jimmer Fredette’s girlfriend is any indication of the caliber of ladies trolling the exterior of the Cougars’ locker room…

festive!

…the willpower has clearly been strong with this team. Until Davies had to ruin everything by going on this debauched escapade. No word yet on whether the sex was caffeine fueled (for the sake of Davies’ Mormon devotion, let’s hope not). And don’t worry! You don’t have to lock up your daughters, you fathers of BYU cheerleaders. Davies is gone. Kaput. Good riddance (at least for a year, while he undergoes counseling). Who needs a number one seed? Who needs to beat New Mexico? Give me chastity or give me death. What college student doesn’t repeat this mantra to his or herself DAILY?

But Davies was quickly one-upped by Klay Thompson. Evidently, the Washington State boosters didn’t shell out enough money to provide Thompson with a working taillight, because a cop stopped him last night (as he approached his own DRIVEWAY) to give him a warning for the broken light. Unfortunately for Klay, he had about two joints worth of weed sitting in the car. Despicable. Yes, yes I know, several players from Marshall University beat up some kids in a bar fight in February and then played in the next game. So maybe two players were caught driving under the influence earlier this year, with one getting only a four game suspension (a Robert Morris University star), and the other, after injuring the other driver involved in the accident, received only an 8 game suspension. But fighting and DUIs, that’s small potatoes. With Thompson and Davies, we’re talking about marijuana. And sex. Again, I’ll say it. Unforgivable.

The hilarity of Thompson’s whole mess is magnified by the fact that his father Mychael is the play-by-play radio announcer for the Los Angeles Lakers. I was listening to the Lakers’ flagship station today, and you might have expected Mychael to shy away from the issue. You would have been wrong. Mychael Thompson took the opportunity to publicly shame his son for the “egregious” transgression, even going so far as to doubt his readiness for the NBA after this season (never mind that pot usage has been reported to reach levels of 70-80% consumption among players in the NBA–Of course, Thompson, a former NBA player, dismissed this, saying he had never witnessed a toke during his playing days). Ok, so you might be saying: But Klay Thompson has to live in Pullman, Washington! What else is he supposed to do? I’m going to pretend you didn’t ask that. Imagine what the consequences would have been if Thompson had been at BYU in Provo, in the hands of a school administration that actually takes transgressions seriously (I’m thinking exile–Old Testament style). So maybe pulling Thompson from Wazu’s most important game of the season will lead to another postseason-free year in Pullman. But again, its the principle of the matter.

Maybe a few of you are saying: Well, I can see why they would suspend the kid for pot, but sex? Well, why don’t we take a look at BYU’s honor code, shall we? (after the jump) Continue reading

March 3, 2011

Underrated: Chauncey Billups’ (Future) Production for the Knicks

by Jeeves

It’s Thursday, so time for something overrated or underrated


The big news preceding the end of the trading deadline, of course, was that after an endless dance, the Nuggets finally traded Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks. There was much rejoicing and a surprising amount of hand wringing after the trade was consummated. Due to the deluge of media coverage leading up to the trade, much of the focus was placed on Carmelo Anthony. The fact that Chauncey Billups was included in the trade was a mere afterthought.

The funny thing is that Chauncey may end up making a larger impact on the Knicks  this season than Carmelo. I’m not trying to argue that Chauncey is better than Carmelo or that he’s even close to being the player Carmelo is. I just think that as Amare and Carmelo try to mesh their high usage games together, that Chauncey will prove to be exceedingly valuable to the Knicks.

I realize it has been an extremely small sample size but their performance has shown this to some degree so far. Chauncey’s production, so far, has been far, far more efficient than Carmelo’s. I realize that Carmelo has produced more in terms of sheer numbers, but there is something to be said about producing efficiently. I’ll pose this hypothetical: Would you rather have a player shoot 6/8 from the field (2/2 from 3pt and 5-5 FT) for a total of 20 points or 8/23 from the field (1/3 from 3pt and 6-6 FT) for a total of 23 points. Yeah, 23 points is more than 20, but I’d much rather have a player put up that first stat line.

In any case, whatever your views on efficiency, it’s undeniable that Chauncey has been a more efficient offensive player. In his 4 games so far (he missed one with a thigh bruise), he’s scored 93 points while taking 49 attempts from the field; that works out to 1.9 pts per field goal attempt. That’s a pretty good number. If you factor in turnovers and look at points per possession, that number falls a little to 1.6, still pretty good. Carmelo on the other hand has scored 130 points but has needed 111 field goal attempts to reach that total, which is 1.2 pts per field goal attempt. His points per possession works out to 1.07. Another way to look at it, is at that rate Chauncey would score 160 points using 100 possessions whereas Carmelo would only score 107 points, using 100 possessions. It’s a little abstract to think of it like that, but it is a fairly significant difference. Another way to look at it is that league average points per field goal attempt is 1.2, the same as Carmelo and league average points per possession is 1.06, almost the same as Carmelo. In that view, Carmelo is producing at a rate no better than league average.

Carmelo has the superior per game statistics and the higher bulk totals due to playing an extra game and also playing more minutes that Chauncey. Another way to view things on a more level field is to look at their per 36 minutes stats. Per 36 minutes, Chauncey has averaged 25.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, and 6.6 apg. Carmelo on the other hand has averaged 25.6/4.7/2.4. There’s no arguing here that Chauncey has provided more output per 36 minutes. He’s outscored Carmelo, while providing the same number of rebounds (from the point guard position!!) and nearly tripling Carmelo’s assists.

I think part of Chauncey’s efficiency dominance is attributable to 3 things. First, Carmelo is a great scorer, but not an efficient one. Second, Carmelo, who has gotten used to dominating the ball since Iverson was traded, has to learn to share the rock with Amare. Finally, I think the D’Antoni offense generally benefits point guard play.

So as I said, I’m not trying to convince anyone that Chauncey is better than Carmelo. I am trying to say that his production so far has been underrated and that his production moving forward will also likely be underrated. There’s extreme value in efficiency, which is something Chauncey has in spades when compared to Melo.

March 3, 2011

Carlos Silva Shows Us Why Spring Training DOES Matter

by npiller88

sending this one right at your face, Aramis

14 errors in 4 games. That’s how the Chicago Cubs’ Spring Training has started.

And out of that mess, miraculously, comes a story of real interest.

Two Cubs got into a scuffle in the clubhouse yesterday. One is on the bubble of making the team. The other is an established regular guaranteed a starting spot. Can you guess which one made the error? (Hint, its not the guy who had something to play for).

But despite not committing any errors, Silva did give up two home runs in the first inning. Not a good start for a guy trying to lock down the role of fifth starter for the Cubs. Even though he got into it with a teammate, its hard not to sympathize with Silva. He was a guy who was probably the Cubs’ best starter for the early part of 2010, and may have believed he wouldn’t have to fight for a spot this Spring.

Let’s not forget that this is the second such recent bench kerfuffle for the Cubs between a pitcher and a position player (the other being the disastrous, frightening Carlos Zambrano outburst directed at Derek Lee, among others, which eventually landed Zambrano with a suspension/anger management therapy). Apparently, as former ace Zambrano can attest, Cubs pitchers don’t seem to be fond of position players making errors behind them. New manager Mike Quade (known as a player’s manager) may have inherited a bit of a toxic environment from Sweet Lou Pinella. Or not. Maybe this means nothing.

But it does make for a fascinating case study of Spring Training baseball and player effort. Ramirez knows he’s going to make the team. Maybe that’s why he didn’t focus hard enough to catch the fly ball he dropped in the first inning, one of three errors the Cubs committed in that frame. Or maybe he just made a mistake. Silva, on the other hand, was probably giving it his all, and then some. Maybe pressing too much, or at least, enough to give up a couple of dingers. What I’m guessing happened was Silva made some noise in the dugout about his fielders not making the plays. As a veteran taking offense, Ramirez probably got in his face. An angry Silva, concerned for his job, probably lost it, or maybe he said something to make Ramirez lose it. It doesn’t really matter. What’s interesting are the unique circumstances:

If not for the errors committed behind him, Silva probably wouldn’t have had the window to give up those two home runs, or at least not both of them. Now, he may be struggling with his command or velocity or something, and you could argue that such a thing can’t be hidden from the decision-makers for an entire Spring. Or you could argue that if it was truly an aberration and not a result of command or velocity problems, the rest of his performances during the Spring will be successful and cement him as the team’s fourth or fifth starter in the rotation. But one wonders, if Ramirez and some of the others had focused a little harder in that inning, perhaps Silva wouldn’t have been exposed in such a way. He also would have avoided the frustration of having errors made behind him, which could have improved his performance as well. As immature as both players’ reactions were, it’s hard to fault Silva for getting heated, since his job is on the line, and the Cubs have played the worst defense of any team this Spring.

Silva’s resume was affected by Ramirez’ screw-up, because the errors left Silva on the mound longer, pitching from a position of weakness (with men on base where he probably had to throw more hittable pitches), and generally more vulnerable to failure.

This is not to say Silva is blameless. The entire inning sounded like a disaster. But if I was Silva, I’d be pissed too. It may be Spring, but damn man, make the plays.

March 2, 2011

Chris Paul Version 2.0

by Jeeves

In my mind, going into the 2009-2010 season, Chris Paul was with out a doubt the best point guard in the NBA. He was unbelievable to watch. He had a quick first step, he could shoot, he could dribble, he could command an offense, he could do everything. Unfortunately for NBA fans everywhere, he tore his meniscus part way through that year.

The injury didn’t mark the end of Chris Paul, phenomenal basketball player. It has, it seems, affected the way he plays and has damaged his stake to the claim of best PG in all the land. Before we jump into things, let me establish a baseline for Chris Paul. The following table is a listing of some key stats from the 2008-2009 season, which I consider the peak of his basketball powers:

Year FGA FG% FTA Reb Ast Pts USG% TOV%
08-09 16.1 50.4 6.7 5.5 11.0 22.8 27.5 13.5

We’ll consider that the baseline of awesomeness.

Sadly, CP3’s numbers have all taken a tumble. The big box score numbers (pts/reb/ast) have fallen to 16.0/3.9/9.6. If those were the only numbers that had slipped from the baseline of awesomeness, well, I’d just chalk it up to Paul finding his game again after surgery and assume that by next year he’d be back to normal. Digging deeper, though, it looks like Chris Paul has fundamentally changed his game. It looks like he’s lost a great deal of his assertiveness.  Compare these two tables:

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