More Ridiculous Statistics

1). Of all regular players in MLB, Jimmy Rollins has the lowest on-base percentage when leading off an inning (.242).
Yes, that is on-base percentage, not even batting average (which still would have been bad).  This is especially bad considering Rollins is a LEADOFF HITTER!  Oh, and to make matters even worse, Ryan Howard (the Phillies’ #4 hitter) has the second worst when leading off an inning, which means that the Phillies are likely to start each of the first two innings with 1 out and nobody on.  Ugh.

2). The Mets have the best run-differential in the league for innings 1-3 and the worst run-differential in innings 7-9.
Though it makes sense at first glance, both of these statistics surprise me.  Yes, the Mets have a great offense, but their starting pitching is not that good, so I am surprised that they have the best run-differential through the first three innings.  And I am even more surprised by the second statistic.  Yes, their bullpen is in shambles, but what happens to their offense in late innings?  And, is their bullpen really that much worse than the Pirates or the Astros or the Mariners–all of whom have much worse offenses?

3). If the Tampa Bay Rays hold on and finish the season with the best record in baseball, they will be the first team since the 19th century – in ANY major sport – to go from the worst team in a sport to the best in one year.
Yes, there have been teams that have gone worst-to-first, but that was always talking about a division.  It, apparently, has never happened – in any sport – over the entirety of the sport.  Come to think of it, the Celtics were pretty close, but they had the second worst record in the league in ’06-’07.

4). Rich Harden has pitched 49 innings for the Cubs since being traded from Oakland, and he has 70 strikeouts…yes, SEVENTY!
That is unbelievable.  I think it is tapered a bit because he rarely pitches more than 6 innings, but that is a ridiculous amount of strikeouts from a starting pitcher.

5). Coming into tonight’s game, Jamie Moyer has 14 consecutive starts in which he has given up 3 or fewer runs.
[DISCLAIMER: I am watching the game right now, and this streak may be about to end, considering the start the Mets have a 3-0 lead in the second inning.]  This stat is incredible considering Moyer is 45 years old and I can throw harder than him.  The depressing aspect of this great streak is that he is only 5-4, with 5 no-decisions through this stretch.

Tell Me I’m Crazy

Well, we are now less than two hours away from the tip-off of the most important game for USA Basketball since the Original Dream Team.  (On a totally unrelated note, I am only working a half-day today.)

Anyway, I know that there is a good chance that I may be proven crazy on this one, but here is my hypothesis:  This year’s “Redeem Team” is BETTER than the Original Dream Team, making it the best basketball team ever assembled.  Hold on one second and allow me to make a couple of points before you rip me apart for this.

1). I would never, EVER claim that if you take the players on the ’92 team in their prime against the players on this team in their prime, that this team is better.  A big part of this argument will rest on the fact that guys like Bird and Magic were far past their peak years.  I mean Magic was retired.

2). I will also not claim that the run that that the ’08 team is having through the Olympics even compares to the run through the Olympics that the ’92 team had.  Yes, the Dream Team opened the Olympics with a 116-48 win over Angola.  They cruised through the Olympics with a 9-0 record and an average victory margin of 44 points per game.  Their closest game was the gold medal game against Croatia, where they won by a measly 33 points.  They only trailed once in the entire tournament, and Coach Chuck Daly did not need one timeout in any of the nine games.

3). I have trouble believing that the Redeem Team would win a one-game, winner-take-all game between the two, even as they were constructed because the ’92 team had guys like Jordan, Barkley, Bird, and others that just would not lose.  However, I still think that this year’s team is better–meaning that if the two teams played the same 100-game schedule the ’08 team would have more wins, and even if the two teams played each other 100 times, the ’08 team would win the majority of them.

Why?  Let us start with personnel.  I think that this team is considerably more athletic (remember, Magic, Bird, and Drexler were all in the back-ends of their careers).  I think that this team is very well-constructed, in that they have a high-octane backcourt, with a lot of depth at the point (Paul & Williams off the bench), and they teamed that up with extremely athletic big men (Howard, Bosh, and Boozer).  Secondly, and this may come as a bit of a surprise, I think that this team plays better defense than that team did–particularly at the point and transistion, full-court defense.  Finally, I think that this team has even more scoring options than the ’92 team, which featured 10 of the 50 greatest players of all-time.  I still have absolutely no idea how anyone could possibly figure out how to stop this team on offense.  Not only do they have absolutely incredible scorers (LeBron, Kobe, Carmelo, Wade, etc.), but they all pass very, very well, so these phenomenal scorers all get good looks.  Then, you can bring a dead-eye shooter (Michael Redd) off the bench or let the offense run through a pair of point guards, who are not too shabby at scoring the ball either (Paul & Williams).  Yes, they lack the back-to-the-basket scorer, but they are proving that that facet of the game is not as important in the up-and-down international game.

Finally, let us just look at results.  Yes, as I stated above, the Dream Team won 9 straight by an average of 44 points per game.  Yes, I know that they only trailed one time (25-23 in the first quarter of the gold medal game against Croatia, which they won by 33).  But, I think it is inarguable that the level of play in these Olympics is astronomically better than it was in 1992.  I am not saying that the Dream Team would not win gold if they were to play in 2008, but I think they would struggle–and this team is not.  At least, so far.

Tell me I’m crazy…

The Five Stages of Grief After the Frontrunner Comment from Jimmy Rollins

Last week, on the Best Damn Sports Show PeriodJimmy Rollins told host Chris Rose that Phillie fans were “frontrunners.”  Though Rose tried to soften the blow by alluding to the fact that all cities are like that in certain ways, Rollins would not back down.  “When you’re doing good, they’re on your side.  When you’re doing bad, they’re completely against you.”  These comments – from my favorite current Philadelphia athlete – hit me very, very hard.

There is a psychological theory about the stages of grief that human beings experience when they face loss or emotional damage.  (Please understand that that I am not, in any way, trying to compare anything that happens in sports to the loss of a loved one or any other major life event that creates immense grief.).  And, it seems to be right in line with my experience over the past couple days.

Stage One:  Denial & Isolation
At first, I saw the report, but did not hear Jimmy’s words.  I figured it was just another media creation.  I figured that, because the media absolutely loves to villify Philadelphia fans, they would take anything that remotely sounded like an admonishment of our character from one of our heroes and run with it. I figured that Jimmy was just a little frustrated and just really wants to win.  I mean, after all, he loves Philly, and we love him.  Then, I heard the actual interview.  Then I saw Jimmy’s words…

Stage Two:  Anger
I could not believe that Rollins could possibly have the audacity to call out us.  I really believed that he understood, that he “got it.”  I was irate that he could possibly say such things after all we have been through together.  We watched him and cheered him, as he struggled in the beginning of his career.  We stuck by him when he was clearly one of the worst leadoff hitters in baseball because we saw potential and we loved his defense.  We pushed for him to finally get the much-deserved Gold Glove.  We backed him up when he called out the Mets in Spring Training, saying (correctly) that the Phillies were the team to beat.  We all felt a collective sense of pride – our little guy was all growned up – last year when he played his heart out, logging an amazing 716 at-bats, winning a much-deserved MVP award and leading this team, physically and emotionally, into the playoffs.  And, finally, this year, we have given him all of the breaks he has earned.  He is hitting .266, folks.  He has 41 strikeouts and only 56 runs scored.  He has been difficult to the manager on (at least) two occasions.  And, we have given him a break.  Hell, he deserves it.  So, then, why in the WORLD would he possibly call US out?!?  Why?!? Why?!? WHY?!?  There are a lot of negative things that can be said about Philly fans.  Being “frontrunners” is just plain WRONG.  We stick by this team.  We sell out the stadium EVERY NIGHT for a team whose fans have to be in their mid-30’s to even remember a championship and has not even won a playoff game in FIFTEEN YEARS.  This city, these fans, are loyal – to a fault.  We live and die with these teams, which is great if you root for the New York Yankees or the New England Patriots or the Duke Blue Devils or USA Swimming, but it stings and burns and just plain hurts if you root for any team from Philly because there is a whole lot of “dying” and not much “living.”  Frontrunners?!?  Not even close.

Stage Three:  Bargaining (Rationalizing)
Eventually, I settled down and moved into the third stage, which is when I tried to rationalize these comments.  Maybe he is just frustrated because the team is struggling right now.  Maybe he is irritated because of his nagging injuries that are not allowing him to play at his best.  Maybe this is something that will just pass by, as if it never really happened.  Maybe if the team just starts winning, this will all forgotten (after all, we are frontrunners, right?).  Maybe this will be a spark for a team that seems to desparately need one right now.  Maybe…  Maybe…  Maybe…

Stage Four:  Depression
I can honestly say that this whole thing has brought me close to actual tears.  I have invested all my emotional capital into this team – this man – and now he calls me a frontrunner?  Now, I am accused of being disloyal to a team that has taken me on a roller-coaster with far more down than ups, with me all the while holding on to that one glimmer of hope that this might be the year.  Let us be honest, for a second:  they are not going to win the World Series.  They have one quality starting pitcher, and he has been mediocre for the better part of two months.  They have a flawed lineup that strikes out far too much and is downright terrible after the #6 spot in the lineup.  They have glaring holes at catcher and third base.  They have a patchwork bullpen that is completely overworked and was not even that good to begin with.  This team is just not a World Series-caliber team.  But, I still believe.  I watched the Cardinals win in ’06 and the White Sox in ’05.  I saw the Tigers and Rockies both make runs to through their leagues with blatantly flawed teams.  I know that the Florida Marlins have never had a team good enough to even win their own division, yet they fly not one, but two World Championship banners in their laughably empty stadium.  So, why not us?  I still watch.  I still follow.  I still believe.  But, Jimmy Rollins thinks I am disloyal.  Jimmy Rollins thinks I only care about the team when they are good (when was that, exactly, Jimmy?).  Yes, we may all be just rooting for laundry, but this time, that 5’8″ guy in the #11 shirt has broken my heart.

Stage Five:  Acceptance
Maybe I am naive.  Maybe I am clinging on to a childish passion.  Maybe I should take this as a cue that sports are just entertainment, and that I should not invest as much emotion and passion into a bunch of spoiled, narcissistic, self-serving athletes who have no real connection even to my city, let alone me, personally.  Maybe I should continue to watch Olympic sports, where at least the athletes care about the uniforms they wear and want to represent all those that believe in those colors.  Maybe, one day, I will reach this fifth stage of grief.  Maybe I will understand that what Jimmy Rollins says or thinks or feels matters not at all in my life.  Maybe, one day…

Unfortunately, that day is not today, so I am stuck in Stage Four.

More Ridiculous Statistics – Dominance

1). Michael Phelps has as many gold medals in this Olympics than Great Britain, France, Spain, and Russia – combined.  In fact, if Phelps were his own country, he would be tied with South Korea and a Phelps-less USA for second in gold medals.
Obviously, the dominance of Michael Phelps is remarkable, but this really puts it into perspective.  Wow!

2). Michael Phelps has more career gold medals (11) than the entire history of India (8).
This is even more remarkable.  Granted they are not known for their athletic achievements, outside of maybe squash and cricket (both non-Olympic events), but India has more than one billion people and has competed at 22 different Olympiads.  Phelps is one person and has competed at 2 Olympiads.

3). Babe Ruth hit 54 home runs in 1920.  That same year, the St. Louis Browns were second in the AL in home runs–as a team–with 50.  The 1920 Boston Red Sox hit 22.
Now, I know that this Babe Ruth stuff has been done and done again, but this is absolutely remarkable.  This one guy hit more home runs than any other TEAM.  His individual total was almost TRIPLE that of the entire Boston team.  Oh, and by the way, George Sisler was second in home runs, behind the Babe, with 19.  That is utterly ridiculous.

4). The difference between Tiger Woods’ #1 ranking and Phil Mickelson’s #2 ranking is a wider margin than that between #2 Mickelson and the 110th ranked player in the world.
I apologize for not knowing or understanding the point system than goes into ranking golfers, but I do not think that it makes much of a difference, considering the sheer ridiculousness of that stat.

5). Roy Oswalt is 21-1 against the Cincinnati Reds.
Now, I do love the random stat, but this one is ridiculous.  Yes, I know that Roy Oswalt is one of the best pitchers on the era.  And, yes, I know that the Cincinnati Reds have really struggled during Oswalt’s career, but TWENTY-ONE and ONE?!?

6). Entering their recent 3-game series, Ryan Howard was hitting .114 against the Pirates, with 34 strikeouts in 70 at-bats.
Say what you will about Ryan Howard and his low batting average and high strikeouts, but these numbers are mind-boggling.  He is not anywhere near this bad, and the Pirates do not exactly have a lights-out pitching staff.

Live Blog: Olympics, Phillies, PGA Championship

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I’ll relax on my couch in Brooklyn today and watch the Olympics in China, the PGA Championship in Michigan, and the Phillies game in Philadelphia.  It’s certainly an interesting Sports Sunday and it starts early with the broadcast of USA vs. China in Olympic basketball.  Predictably, NBC is airing a story on Yao Ming right now.  Also predictably, I know nothing about China’s team other than Yao.  It should be interesting to see how the US decides to defend him, because Dwight Howard is really the only center on the roster.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see them throw a zone defense and see if these Chinese guards can hit some shots.

 10:16 AM: Howard wins the tip from Yao.  USA starting lineup: Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Howard.  Yao hits a 3 to start!  Maybe a zone won’t work (and yes, the US has come out in a zone).

10:20 AM: Oh, China has Yi Zianlian, of course.  They also have a guard that was apparently drafted in the second round by the Lakers in 2007.  He hit a 3 already.  Early 11-9 lead for China, and the crowd is really into it, of course.  Chris Paul checks in.  Many people have pointed out that Paul has surpassed Kidd, and it should be interesting to see who gets the bulk of playing time at the point, with Deron Williams also in the mix.

10:36 AM: The first quarter ends with the US leading 20-16.  Kidd has not come back on the court, and Paul and Williams have on the court together, which I think is a great idea.  China’s been knocking down some 3’s.  I see Jim Boeheim is an assistant coach.  No word on whether or not he tried to get this game played in the Carrier Dome.

10:47 AM: China just keeps sinking the 3’s, they’re 7-11, and have the game tied at 29.  It definitely hasn’t been an encouraging game for the US so far.  Obviously they have a ridiculous advantage in athleticism but they’ve been a bit sloppy and haven’t shot the ball well, which has been the Achilles heel of a lot of these international teams.  If they were playing like this against Argentina, they’d be down double-digits right now.

11:00 AM: It was a disastrous close to the half for the Chinese, as the US delivered what should be a finishing blow and taking a 49-37 lead.  The US started bringing some pressure defense, which you would love to see more of considering their 12th man is an NBA All-Star.  Fatigue will never be an issue for the ‘Redeem Team’.

11:32 AM: The US has really just enforced their will here in the third quarter, carrying over the momentum from the end of the first half.  They still haven’t got the offense clicking on all cylinders but the defense has been pretty stifling and China looks worn down.  It certainly won’t help that Yao just landed awkwardly and looks like he rolled his ankle.  69-48 US with just over a minute in the quarter.

11:57 AM:  Well, it turned into a blowout win for the Americans, but there are still question marks for this team.  They’ll get Angola in their next game, so there probably won’t be much figured out in that one either.  One of my favorite sports quotes ever came from Charles Barkley during the 1992 Olympics.  He was asked what he knew about Angola and responded, “I know they’re gonna lose!”.  Final score: USA 101, China 70.  Craig Sager looks disappointed that he had to wear the NBC golf shirt and not one of his purple and gold suits.

1:17 PM: After catching some rowing events that were probably about as exciting as rowing gets (i.e. not even a little bit), I’m ready for a switch over to baseball, as the Phillies get ready to finish up their series with the Pirates.  The Phillies offense has been shockingly bad lately, but they did manage to break a 23-inning scoreless streak last night and beat the Pirates, 4-2.  They cling to a one-game lead in the division over the Mets, and they’ll send Jamie Moyer to the mound today.  The Pirates starter is some guy I’ve never heard of, Jason Davis, who has appeared in 4 games out of the bullpen for Pittsburgh this year.

1:35 PM:  Rain delay in Philly.  On the bright side, water polo is on the Olympics now, USA vs. China again.  I guess these guys make a bit less money than the basketball players.  This is probably the hardest sport in the world to play.  US leads 3-0.

 2:09 PM:  Ah, the PGA Championship, everyone’s least favorite major.  The CBS coverage is just getting underway.  By the end of the day we’ll know who gets to join such golf luminaries as Shaun Micheel and Rich Beem as champions of this tournament.  It’s quite an underwhelming leaderboard, with Ben Curtis and JB Holmes at the top.  Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia lurk 3 shots off the lead.  It will be interesting to see if either of those two can make a move.  This is one of the 6 days each year that I make an effort to watch golf, so hopefully we get more than a Curtis-Holmes duel.

2:13 PM:  I don’t understand Ben Curtis’s hats.  I remember in the past seeing him wear a Chicago Bears hat while playing and I thought he was just a big fan and/or didn’t have any sponsorships.  But today he’s sporting a Detroit Lions hat, with Titleist written on the side of it.  Does he have some sponsorship deal with the NFL?  Is he just a big football fan?  I need an explanation here.  Maybe Jim Nance will touch on this in a witty aside at some point.

2:20 PM:  Well, Holmes might be exiting stage left, right at the start of his round here.  He put his drive into the trees and then took a hack to get it out and the ball went about four feet.  Now he’s taking a drop.  It’s always fun to watch a professional athlete look completely incompetent.

2:48 PM:  Well, apparently it’s raining everywhere in the whole world.  The Phillies are still in a rain delay, the golf tournament in Michigan has had terrible weather, the beach volleyball match in the Olympics is being played in a torrential downpour, and there’s a severe thunderstorm warning scrolling across the bottom of my screen.  Anyway, the final round in Michigan has gotten off to a crazy start, with Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson making strong moves.  Sergio is still looking for his first major, and that always makes for an intriguing storyline.  Long-time players in search of their first major tend to feel a ton of pressure over those last few holes.

12:15 AM: Well, thanks to Verizon wireless, my internet connection went out just as the Phillies game was getting underway.  The Phillies won an (apparently) exciting game on a 3-run homer by Chase Utley in the 7th inning.  At the PGA Championship, Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington DID make a move and it WAS very interesting and entertaining, with Harrington taking his third major in the last two years and establishing himself as clearly one of the top players in the game right now.

Some Ridiculous Statistics

If you are anything like me, one of the best aspects of the game of baseball, and all sports, is its ability to act as an incredible outlet for statistics nuts.  Without trying to come off as an uber-dork, I love statistics, in any fashion, so when they can be “analyzed” in the form of something I love–namely, sports–I just can’t get enough.  That being said, this may be a running segment.  The ridiculous part is because I doubt that I will always be able to give credibility to these stats because a lot of them may be from announcers or sports talk radio or just some guy on the street that told me something.  (Or maybe, the ridiculous part is how ridiculous it is that anyone could possibly care about this stuff, but whatever.)  I just want a bit of an outlet for some of the astonishing statistics that come from the world of sports.  Some of them might not be amazing–or, they might just be weird.  I don’t know…

So, here are the first set of ridiculous numbers that I heard…somewhere:

1). Ryan Howard is hitting almost .370 (and slugging almost .800) when he puts the ball in play.
Granted, this is not a good stat for the image of Mr. Howard because everyone knows that he’s hitting around .240, so this just goes to further the already overdone impression of how much he strikes out.  However, I think that, is taken in a positive light, this could show how hard Howard hits the ball, and that if he just figures out the strike zone a little better, he could actually be that .300 hitter that he was in the minors.

2). Joe DiMaggio hit 361 career home runs…and only struck out 369 times
Speaking of strikeouts, I heard this stat the other day, and it completely blew my mind.  My grandad (and every other Italian-American born before 1925) may not have been so crazy in telling me from the time I knew what a baseball was that “no one will every be better than Number Five.”  In fact, in looking up Joltin’ Joe’s numbers, over the course of his 16-year career, he never struck out more than 39 times in a single season, and he had 7 seasons (including 5 in a row) in which he hit more home runs than had strikeouts.  Oh, and in an MVP campaign in 1941, Number Five put up the following numbers in 139 games played:  .344 BA, .440 OBP, .643 SLG, 43 doubles, 11 triples, 30 home runs, 125 RBIs, 122 runs scored, 76 walks, and ONLY 13 STRIKEOUTS.  Uh…wow!

3). The Minnesota Twins are on pace to have a better team batting average with runners in scoring position than any other team in the past half-century
This really goes to show you what wins in baseball these days.  If you have a solid pitching staff, a good bullpen, and timely hitting, you can win about 40 more games than your talent says you are capable of.

4). Trever Miller, of the Tampa Bay Rays, just broke the modern baseball record for most consecutive appearances without recording a decision (121)
I have no idea if this is good or bad.  I would guess that this just goes to say that the guy rarely pitches to more than one batter, and that he might not come into close games.  Maybe?  So, I guess this is not exactly a “good” record to have.  But, then again, he has never blown a lead.  I don’t know.  Either way, this is a pretty strange phenomenon.