Month:

September 2019

Griffey In His Prime Was The Second Coming Of Willie Mays

One hundred percent of public ballots have Ken Griffey Jr. going into the Baseball Hall of Fame, which should surprise exactly no one. The only suspense Junior’s election year was ever going to see was the question of how close he comes to unanimity, and whether or not the Baseball Writers’ Association of America conscripts an ordained bishop and a team of surveyors to find and consecrate center field at the site of the old Kingdome.It’s been a while since a position player of Griffey’s caliber went into Hall of Fame Day so certain of induction — Rickey Henderson in 2009 was probably the last — and a lot of the ink that’s been spilled over Griffey focuses on the more ethereal qualities that made him the face of a generation (a generation starving for Hall of Fame consideration, I might add): his style; his athleticism; that grin; that effortless, fluid, magisterial swing.If hall voters could vote in a GIF, I swear to God this thing would have a plaque by the second ballot.Statistically, though, Griffey isn’t talked about in exactly the same way as most players. His artistry was so unimpeachable, his heights so dizzying, and his fall so precipitous, it seemed, that talking about the full measure of his career in the persnickety, CPA-hued style of the modern baseball apparatus not only feels like stapling together two completely different players — The Kid and a mere, fallible mortal — but also carries a certain inevitable, Nearer, My God, to Thee sadness about the career he might have had.This is a mistake. The mystique of Ken Griffey Jr. doesn’t diminish any when held up to the lamp. If anything, panning reality out of myth only seems to grow the myth.Consider: If we break down Griffey’s skills1Adjusted for park effects. relative to the major league average — giving excess weight to his best wins above replacement seasons, to better capture what he was like in his prime — and look for players with similar profiles in their best years,2Generating similarity scores by summing the squared differences of any two players’ percentile ranks in five skill categories — contact rate, isolated power, walk rate, running ability (which includes speed score and baserunning runs) and defensive WAR — and weighting the differences according to each category’s influence on overall WAR. the prime version of Griffey was the closest thing the majors have ever seen to the great Willie Mays. Mays had a slightly better eye at the plate, made more contact and was a better runner. Otherwise, peak Griffey was the spitting image of the Say Hey Kid’s best years: a profanely powerful hitter and elite defensive outfielder with great speed and patience, and solid contact skills.(Griffey’s second-most similar prime-to-prime player was his former Mariners teammate Alex Rodriguez — no slouch in his best years, either.) But let’s say we give in and run the same exercise without giving extra weight to the most thrilling years of Griffey’s career. In that case, we find Roger Maris, whose single-season home-run record Griffey flirted with in 1994 before labor strife brought the season to an abrupt halt. This is a telling comparison. Over their respective careers, Mays and Maris boasted nearly identical marks in power, contact and plate patience, but they differed greatly in the most dynamic areas of the game: speed and defense.Likewise, late-career Griffey retained much of his familiar hitting profile, but he became unrecognizable in the field and on the basepaths. After stealing 167 bases in the first 11 years of his career, Griffey swiped only 17 over his final 11 seasons. He also joined the likes of Adam Dunn and Manny Ramirez as one of baseball’s least valuable fielders over his final major-league decade, an outcome that seemed unthinkable when Junior was pulling fly balls off the wall at a dead sprint and doing his “I got it” routine across the Great Lakes. The effect is so extreme that if we invert the prime-weighting scheme from above, instead giving excess weight to a player’s worst seasons, Griffey suddenly profiles like a lumbering slugger in the mold of Kevin Mitchell or Prince Fielder — a far cry from the sprightliness of his ’90s heyday.But here’s the thing: While Kevin Mitchell and Prince Fielder were and are, uh, hefty, they’re also pretty good players. Among non-pitchers since 19133The earliest season, continuous from 2015, for which FanGraphs tracks strikeout rate for batters. with 3,000 or more career trips to the plate, each ranks in the top third in WAR on a per-plate appearance basis. His skills may have been undermined by constant injuries, an ill-fated contract and geriatric napping, but even in winter, one of Griffey’s closest comps was a 31-year-old six-time All-Star.There are many faces to Griffey’s stardom. He might have been baseball’s last truly mainstream superstar, which takes on even more meaning in a sport with an ever-dwindling base of African-American players. The iconography of Griffey — the fun-loving, video game-endorsing, steroid-free natural athlete — always meant his case for the Hall rested on more than mere numbers. But as we all celebrate Griffey’s career this week, it’s worth remembering that Griffey’s numbers are no mere thing, and his statistical legacy isn’t so fragile as to topple over at the first gust of scrutiny. Even during his worst days, Griffey remained an All-Star-caliber player; during his best, he really was the second coming of Willie Mays.Read More: Mike Piazza Was More Than A Big BatBaseball’s Hall Of Fame Is Stuck In The ’60s read more

Trinidadian Sprinter KellyAnn Baptiste Tests Positive for Banned Substance

The banned substance saga has continued in the world of track and field.Trinidad and Tobago sprinter Kelly-Ann Baptiste has tested positive for a banned substance, according to the Trinidad Express. The sprinter ultimately withdrew from the World Track and Field Championships currently taking place in Moscow.“She has voluntarily withdrawn from the competition and is heading back to her base,” Trinidad and Tobago team manager Dexter Voisin told the newspaper.However, he refused to comment on what banned substance Baptiste had in her system. “I can’t disclose anything pertaining to that.”Baptiste trains with Tyson Gay, the U.S. sprinter who has seen success this year, after being sidelined by agonizing injuries in the past. Gay failed multiple drug tests this year causing him to withdraw from the championships as well. Baptiste was entered in the 100-meter, 200-meter and the 4×100 relay in the world championships with her first event, 100-meter, beginning with heats Sunday.The Trinidad and Tobago sprinter was the bronze medalist at the 2011 World Championship in the 100-meter. She joins a long list of track athletes including Gay, Asafa Powell, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Sherone Simpson who all recently tested positive for banned substances. read more

The Dutch Own A Single Sport Like No Other Country In The

The Dutch do one thing very, very wellThe countries that have won the largest share of their medals in one sport at the Winter Olympics IranWrestling436863.2 CountrySportIn sportTotalshare of total IndonesiaBadminton193063.3 Trinidad and TobagoTrack & Field151979.0 Great BritainFigure skating515113345.545.5 JamaicaTrack & Field777898.7 Medals EthiopiaTrack & Field5353100.0% AustriaAlpine skiing351156122157.452.0 FinlandCross-country ski20774316446.547.0 SwedenCross-country ski31765515356.449.7 TurkeyWrestling639566.3 NetherlandsSpeedskating401144212195.4%94.2% Among countries that won at least 10 medals in a single sport. Through Feb. 14, 2018 (South Korea time).Source: Sports-Reference.com Things weren’t always this way. Looking at all the medals ever given out in speedskating, the Dutch have captured 21 percent. This is impressive, but it’s short of other countries’ performances in other sports: Canada has won 31 percent of all curling medals, and the U.S. has won 29 percent of all snowboarding medals, for instance. But much of this has to do with the fact that speedskating has a long history at the Olympics, and the Netherlands has only reached its current level of dominance relatively recently. The Dutch won 13.1 percent of all speedskating medals between 1924 and the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, and all of those came after 1952. But since the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan, the Netherlands has captured 36.6 percent of all podium spots.2Through the end of competition (Korea time) on Feb. 14, 2018. The Dutch dominance is so complete that it inspires wacky theories. NBC’s Katie Couric was mocked for her recent statement that the Dutch are so good because they have a longstanding tradition of skating from place to place on frozen canals. The problem: Those canals freeze only a few times a year, if at all, and when people skate on them, it’s for recreation. Dutch skeedskaters are also rumored to have an ideal body type for the sport, but while the country’s racers are often tall, so are many of their opponents from other countries. Nor do the Dutch use a proprietary method to glide past other competitors: While many members of the team have spectacular form, which includes bending low and skating with force and precision, the technique isn’t a secret.The real cause, more than anything else, is dedication. Starting in childhood, Dutch skaters train with excellent instructors. The Dutch team’s skating equipment is the best in the world, too. For the Olympics in 2014, officials from the host city of Sochi went to the Netherlands to learn how to build a top-of-the-line racing rink. By the time they are ready to compete, Dutch stars have been skating in ideal conditions and learning how to peak in time for the biggest races.The ultimate proof of a country’s prowess in an Olympic event is sweeping all three medals. The Netherlands managed it earlier this week, when Dutch women took gold, silver and bronze in a 3,000 meter speedskating race. In another race, the 31-year-old Ireen Wust won her fifth career gold medal and 10th overall medal, a speedskating record. That victory was a surprise, as the silver medalist, Miho Takagi of Japan, was a strong favorite. Wust is the first Dutch athlete to win five gold medals.The only champions who beat out the Dutch in terms of winning all their medals in a single sport in either the Winter or Summer Games3Among countries that have won at least 10 medals in a single sport. are Ethiopia and Jamaica, who excel in track and field races. Ethiopia has 53 summer medals, all of them in track and field. Jamaica, famous for the record-holding sprinter Usain Bolt, has won 98.7 percent of its medals in track. The Dutch are next on the list, at 94.2 percent. CountrySportGoldTotalGoldsTOTALGoldsTotal CroatiaAlpine skiing410411100.090.9 ChinaShort track930125375.056.6 BahamasTrack & Field121485.7 IN SportALL EVENTSShare of KenyaTrack & Field9310093.0 At the Olympics in South Korea, highly populated countries such as the U.S. can contend in a broad range of sports, including skiing, hockey, skating and more. But smaller countries have a harder time producing world-class athletes in so many disciplines, so they often concentrate on just a few. Then there’s the Netherlands, which owns one event alone: speedskating.Through the end of competition Wednesday (South Korea time) at the Pyeongchang Games, 40 of the 42 gold medals Dutch competitors have won in any Winter Olympics had come in speedskating — not to be confused with speedskating’s more exciting half-brother, short-track speed skating, which the Olympics count as a separate discipline. Just seven of the nation’s 121 total Winter medals came in a sport other than speedskating, a measly 5.8 percent. At the previous Winter Olympics in 2014, the Dutch claimed 24 medals: 23 in speedskating and one, a bronze, in short track skating. Eight of their medals were gold.In sports, a country’s dominance often fades — look at Romania in Olympic gymnastics or U.S. men in tennis Grand Slams. But Dutch speedskaters have sustained their superiority. In the 2010 Olympics, they won eight medals: seven in speedskating and one, a gold, in snowboarding. They won nine in 2006, all in speedskating. So far this Olympics, they’ve already won nine speedskating medals,1Not counting their two on the short track, or the silver speedskating medal the country won on Thursday. including five golds. The most impressive Dutch medal so far in these games: a third consecutive gold in the 5,000 meter race for Sven Kramer, who is 31 years old. He is the first man to win three straight golds in the same Olympic speedskating event. He won this year’s race by nearly two seconds. Among countries that won at least 10 medals in a single sportSource: Sports-Reference.com SwitzerlandAlpine skiing20595013940.042.5 The Summer Games’ one-sport specialistsThe countries that have won the largest share of their Summer Olympic medals in one sport SlovakiaCanoeing182864.3 South KoreaShort track2243275481.579.6 MoroccoTrack & Field192382.6 FranceAlpine skiing15483311545.541.7 So, will the Dutch team’s rule ever end? This seems impossible now, especially given the relatively low levels of attention the sport gets in powerful countries like the U.S. But you never know. As the U.S. and many other countries have shown, Olympic dominance usually doesn’t last forever. Enjoy it, those of you from the Netherlands, while you can. read more

Brad Stevens Makes The Celtics Better Than They Have Any Right To

Spurs6123.516106.89+16.7 These Celtics produced a lot more value than expectedActual vs. projected wins added (based on Box Plus/Minus) on offense and defense, for members of the 2017-18 Boston Celtics in the regular season Abdel Nader24SF522+0.2-1.3+0.5+0.7 TeamRkPts/100 poss.RkPts/100 poss.RkPts/100 poss. Kings13109.3170.01+39.3 Jazz7123.3387.32+36.0 Rockets4132.41097.93+34.6 Data up-to-date through games played May 8.Source: Second Spectrum Jarell Eddie26SF6+0.0+0.0+0.0+0.0 OffenseDefenseNet Raptors5131.319111.58+19.7 Jaylen Brown21SG2152-0.2+1.6+1.5+2.9 Greg Monroe27C496+0.7+0.6+0.9+1.8 Pistons12110.5689.87+20.7 Terry Rozier23PG2068-0.3+3.3+2.3+3.6 Nuggets10117.0894.75+22.3 Guerschon Yabusele22PF235+0.1+0.1+0.2+0.3 +15.3+18.8+22.3+35.1 Kadeem Allen25PG107+0.0-0.3+0.1+0.1 Shane Larkin25PG775+0.5-0.2+0.5+1.0 Marcus Morris28PF1447+1.3+0.7+1.5+1.1 Semi Ojeleye23PF1150+0.4-1.2+1.1+1.4 Celtics8122.0588.64+33.4 PlayerAgePos.Min.Proj.ActualProj.Actual Xavier Silas30SG7+0.0+0.0+0.0+0.0 The best teams on out-of-bounds plays (at both ends)Net efficiency on sideline or baseline inbound plays, 2017-18 NBA season Suns16105.1284.26+20.9 Even with home-court advantage, there was little reason to think the Boston Celtics should be favored in their conference semifinal series against the Philadelphia 76ers. As Boston was struggling to grind out a seven-game first-round victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, Philly was resting up, having dispatched the Miami Heat with relative ease. And while the Celtics were down their best scorer (Kyrie Irving), the Sixers had center Joel Embiid back from injury to join all-around terror Ben Simmons as the series’ two headline players. On paper, the Celtics seemed to stand little chance — and the Las Vegas bookmakers agreed.In the end, though, Boston kept defying the odds like it’s done all season, closing out a surprising five-game series win over the 76ers Wednesday night. Al Horford outplayed Embiid, Terry Rozier continued his unheralded rise to playoff stardom and — perhaps most importantly — head coach Brad Stevens continued his yearlong project of spurring this team to play better than ever seemed possible. That’s been part of Stevens’s reputation since his days at Butler University, and the numbers bear it out, too: Stevens really does stand out in the ways we can measure coaching effectiveness.First, there are the X’s and O’s of Stevens’s playcalling, which got extra acclaim in the Philly series as the undermanned Celtics relied as much on tactics as talent to engineer the upset. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer did a great job of detailing them here: How Stevens repositioned his bigs to reduce Embiid’s impact; how he deterred Simmons’s forays to the hoop in transition; how his inbounds plays changed the course of the series. That last skill is one Stevens has been making good use of all season, with Boston ranking fourth in the league in net efficiency on sideline and baseline out-of-bounds plays (according to Second Spectrum): Gordon Hayward27SF5+0.0+0.0+0.0+0.0 Daniel Theis25C936+0.3+0.6+0.9+3.0 Jayson Tatum19SF2438+0.8+2.0+2.3+4.9 Off. WinsDef. Wins Al Horford31C2277+3.2+4.1+5.3+6.5 Jabari Bird23SG115+0.0+0.0+0.1+0.1 That’s only the sixth time since the dawn of the 3-point era (1980) that a team won at least 55 games while carrying a projected record under .500.2The others were the 1998 San Antonio Spurs (in Tim Duncan’s rookie year), 1993 Houston Rockets, 1990 Spurs (David Robinson’s rookie year), 1989 Phoenix Suns and 1980 Boston Celtics (Larry Bird’s rookie year). Granted, much of it was due to the instant contributions of rookie Jayson Tatum, dramatic improvements from Rozier and NBA sophomore Jaylen Brown, and an MVP-type season by Irving — but that’s also the point. The best coaches, such as San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, have a repeatable tendency to put up more wins than statistical projections say their roster should. With an average of 4.9 extra wins per season over his first five years on an NBA sideline, Stevens appears to be one of those coaches. And while Stevens’s value was clear to even the most casual NBA observers when Boston kept winning despite the injuries to Gordon Hayward and then Irving, it wasn’t so clear to the other 29 coaches in the league: Stevens received zero Coach of the Year votes from his peers.He’s taking it up an extra notch this postseason. The Celtics had a schedule-adjusted efficiency differential of +3.4 points per 100 possessions during the regular season (5.7 points/100 better than projected), but they’re up to +4.9 in the playoffs (8.3 points/100 better than projected). Sometimes, teams who overachieve in the regular season struggle to keep beating expectations in the postseason, where raw skill rules and the margin for error is much smaller. But Stevens and the Celtics have only gotten better at overachieving as the playoffs have gone on.Now Boston will have to face its toughest test yet, in the form of the team that eliminated them from last year’s postseason — the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs did their own overachieving (maybe …) by unexpectedly sweeping the East’s No. 1 seed Toronto Raptors, but that was only after they lost more regular-season games than teams like the Celtics despite superior talent. A month into the playoffs, that talent is beginning to round into form next to LeBron James, who could be playing the best basketball of his entire career.If that sounds like a problem that even superior game-planning and locker-room management can’t solve, well, it may prove to be. But if anyone is up to the task, it’s probably Brad Stevens.Check out our latest NBA predictions. Total Beyond drawing on the whiteboard, Stevens seems to already be a master of the art of squeezing wins out of a roster via intangible factors such as fit, chemistry and player development. If we use each player’s projected Box Plus/Minus (Basketball-Reference’s estimate for points added per 100 possessions) as a guide,1Based on a variant of Basketball-Reference’s simple projection system, which regresses each player (particularly rookies and other low-minute players) toward a below-average, rather than average, mean on offense and defense. (This improves the predictive value of the projections.) and if we plug in how many minutes each player actually logged this season — a big consideration for a team riddled with injuries — we’d have expected Boston to only win about 38 games this season.The Celtics won 55. Aron Baynes31C1485-0.6-1.7+2.2+3.5 Jonathan Gibson30PG40+0.0+0.2+0.0-0.1 Kyrie Irving25PG1931+7.3+10.2+0.0+1.3 Bucks9121.615105.710+15.9 Projections use a weighted average of the previous three seasons, regressed to the mean and adjusted for aging patterns.Source: Basketball-Reference.com Marcus Smart23SG1614+1.7+0.2+2.9+2.9 read more

March Madness Crib Notes for Thursdays Sweet 16 Games

Check out FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness predictions. No. 3 Notre Dame (53 percent win probability) vs. No. 7 Wichita StateLocation: ClevelandWhen to watch: At 7:15 p.m. EDT on CBSPower ratings: Wichita State 88.1, Notre Dame 87.2Upset probability: 47 percentPlayer to watch: Fred VanVleet, Wichita StateAfter prevailing in what was arguably the round of 32’s most exciting game, Notre Dame’s next hurdle will be a terrific all-around Wichita State team that is coming off one of the biggest victories in program history. These two teams are very evenly matched; the Fighting Irish are better offensively (according to KenPom.com’s ratings), but the Shockers have the better defense. There are a few peculiarities that could decide the matchup — Wichita State’s defense is good at gathering rebounds and stopping 2-point field goals, which should mitigate two of the Irish’s offensive strengths. Notre Dame, meanwhile, has the superior long-distance shooters. But this is such a tossup that it might come down to something as obscure as travel distance. Notre Dame is favored to win in part because South Bend is almost four times closer to Cleveland than Wichita is. Wichita State has the better power rating in the FiveThirtyEight model, but the travel is what makes the prediction tilt Notre Dame’s way. File it under “every little edge counts,” I suppose. After a three-day break, the Madness continues Thursday with the commencement of the Sweet 16. And according to the FiveThirtyEight power ratings of the teams involved, Thursday’s games are pretty clearly better than Friday’s slate of matchups. Headlining the action, as always: undefeated Kentucky, who’ll take the court against West Virginia in their sternest test yet (granted, the Wildcats still have an 87 percent chance of advancing). But the most intriguing game of the night might just be North Carolina versus Wisconsin in a battle of contrasting styles.Read on for more about Thursday’s NCAA tournament action …No. 1 Kentucky (87 percent win probability) vs. No. 5 West VirginiaLocation: ClevelandWhen to watch: At 9:45 p.m. EDT on CBSPower ratings: Kentucky 97.9, West Virginia 85.5Upset probability: 13 percentPlayer to watch: Karl-Anthony Towns, KentuckyWest Virginia is a deep, balanced squad with a great swarming defense, but its run likely ends Thursday night against the nation’s most talented team. While the Mountaineers do employ some high-variance strategies that could help their upset chances — particularly a pressing defense that specializes in forcing turnovers — there are plenty of weaknesses for Kentucky to exploit if it can adequately protect the ball. Kentucky had the third-best shooting efficiency differential in the country during the season, while West Virginia had the nation’s 30th-worst; the Mountaineers also allowed the highest free throw rate in the country on defense. (For its part, Kentucky’s offense ranked 30th-best in forcing fouls and 74th in free throw accuracy.) So if this game is decided by conventional means, West Virginia probably won’t win; the Mountaineers will need takeaways and a lot of good fortune to hand Kentucky its first loss of the season. No. 2 Arizona (87 percent win probability) vs. No. 6 XavierLocation: Los AngelesWhen to watch: At 10:17 p.m. EDT on TBSPower ratings: Arizona 94.8, Xavier 85.5Upset probability: 13 percentPlayer to watch: T.J. McConnell, ArizonaBy navigating past a tough Ohio State team with relative ease in the round of 32, Arizona earned the right to face Xavier in one of the Sweet 16’s easier matchups. The Musketeers aren’t a bad team, but they are among the weaker remaining squads in the field. And that’s not good when facing the second-highest-rated team in the FiveThirtyEight power ratings. There are stylistic reasons to think Xavier is overmatched here. The key to the Musketeers’ success has been their offense, particularly on 2-pointers (big men Matt Stainbrook and Jalen Reynolds both shot in excess of 62 percent on twos this season), but the Wildcats excel at short-circuiting opponents’ 2-point efficiency. And in the absence of its bread-and-butter, Xavier might have trouble knocking down enough threes or forcing enough turnovers to make life difficult for Arizona. The Musketeers shouldn’t feel too bad, though: Despite being the No. 2 seed, Arizona is a 58 percent favorite to emerge as the West’s representative in the Final Four. No. 1 Wisconsin (73 percent win probability) vs. No. 4 North CarolinaLocation: Los AngelesWhen to watch: At 7:47 p.m. EDT on TBSPower ratings: Wisconsin 93.6, North Carolina 88.0Upset probability: 27 percentPlayer to watch: Frank Kaminsky, WisconsinWorlds are colliding in Thursday’s most interesting pairing. The Badgers, known for slowing the pace of the game down to a veritable crawl, will meet the Tar Heels, one of the nation’s fastest-paced teams. During the season, Wisconsin’s average possession lasted nearly six seconds longer than North Carolina’s, while the proportion of UNC’s plays on which they had a transition opportunity was more than double that of Wisconsin. (The Badgers were at the bottom of Division I with a 7.5 percent rate of transition chances per play, according to Synergy.) The tempo of this game will be worth watching. Beyond that, the possibility of an upset might come down to whether UNC can get the 2-point shots upon which they thrive against a tough interior Wisconsin defense and — relatedly — whether the Heels can do any damage on the offensive glass versus the Badgers’ great defensive rebounders. read more

Do Toothless Offenses Like The Bengals Ever Recover

1973OAK22.914.024.426.1-1.7 2006OAK10.53.011.618.1-6.5 2000DET19.214.519.920.1-0.2 2001SEA20.06.022.021.1+0.9 All is not lost here for the Bengals. Eight of those teams that didn’t score an offensive touchdown in their first two games actually went on to score more on average in their remaining games than they did in the previous year. But all of these gains were modest, in many cases less than a point. The biggest rebounders were the 1990 Pittsburgh Steelers, who averaged 16.6 points in 1989, failed to score an offensive TD in Weeks 1 and 2, and then averaged 19.3 points for the rest of the year. The news is less rosy when you look at three most recent examples: The 2016 L.A. Rams, the 2006 Oakland Raiders and the 2006 Tampa Bay Bucs. The inauspicious starts for these three were a dark omen for what was to come. The trio combined to go 10-38.The hope of modest gains isn’t much for Bengals fans to cling to. This team was expecting its offense, which ranked 24th in the NFL last year, to get much better — not to plateau or fall off a cliff. Since history tells us to expect that teams in the Bengals’ position will score an average of three fewer points per game than they did in the previous season, and Cincinnati scored 20.3 points per game last year, we’d expect the team to post about 17 points per game in 2017. In the 16-game era,1Not counting 1982 and 1987 seasons, which were shortened by strikes. teams that average between 16 and 18 points per game are 871-1,635-6 for a .348 winning percentage that translates to between five and six projected wins this year for the Bengals.Of course, the Bengals could have just run into hot defenses in their first two games, against the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans. But even the great 1985 Bears gave up 22 offensive touchdowns that season, or 1.4 per game. Getting shut out from paydirt in two straight games is epic futility no matter who you’re facing. Cincinnati might pin Week 2’s offensive fiasco on the fact that is was playing a Thursday night game on short rest, but that likely had no effect given that in games through Week 2 since 2014, teams have actually averaged more points per game on Thursdays (23.3) than in the season as a whole (22.6).Some expressed worries that the Bengals’ attack would suffer after the team let 35-year-old Pro Bowl tackle Andrew Whitworth leave for the Rams in free agency, but the Bengals attempted to compensate for the loss by picking up even more skill players in the draft. Owner Mike Brown and head coach Marvin Lewis selected world-class sprinter John Ross to be a game-changing deep threat with the ninth overall pick. And in the second round, the club added 226-pound running back Joe Mixon, who ran a 4.5 40-yard-dash at his Pro Day.And those players were added to a mix that already included three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Andy Dalton, perennial Pro Bowl wideout A.J. Green and one of the league’s most efficient scorers in tight end Tyler Eifert, who since 2000 has the third most touchdowns per catch (minimum 20 touchdowns) among tight ends. The team has 11 offensive players who are home-grown first- or second-round draft picks.All of which makes the offense’s ineptitude even more perplexing. Which explains why the team took drastic measures: This is the first time in the Bengals’ 50-year history, all of which has been spent under the guidance of the Brown family, that an offensive coordinator has been fired during the season.But the bigger issue may be Dalton, who currently ranks last in the NFL in QBR with a rating of just 10. The league average QBR through Week 2 is 49; last year, Dalton’s was 52.3. There have even been rumblings about benching Dalton, including from a former NFL Executive of the Year.Either way, Cincy has no excuses this week — at least, that is, no excuses for not scoring a touchdown. The Bengals are in Green Bay facing a Packer defense that ranks 25th in yards allowed per play through Week 2 after finishing 28th in 2016.But perhaps the Bengals can look to one of their NFC counterparts for offensive inspiration. The Bengals were the 24th team to go through their first two games without scoring an offensive TD, but the 25th team, this year’s San Francisco 49ers, joined the club just a few days later. After a fortnight of grim, incompetent offense, Brian Hoyer and the Niners exploded for five touchdowns and 39 points in Thursday night’s loss to the Rams.Then again, when it’s only Week 3 and you are already trying to emulate the feats of the Niners, something has gone terribly wrong. 1988CLE19.04.521.126.0-4.9 YEARTEAMFULL YEARGAMES 1-2REST OF YEARPRIOR YEARDIFF AVERAGE POINTS PER GAME 2004TAM18.88.020.318.8+1.5 Teams that started like the Bengals didn’t rebound wellHow the 22 past teams that didn’t score an offensive touchdown in Weeks 1 and 2 fared over the rest of the season, compared to the season prior 2006TAM13.21.514.918.8-3.9 1978BAL14.90.017.021.1-4.1 1990PIT18.311.519.316.6+2.7 2001WAS16.01.518.117.6+0.5 1996TAM13.84.515.114.9+0.2 Excluding the 1976 Tampa Bay team, which was in its first year as a franchiseSource: Pro-Football-Reference.com 1985BUF12.56.013.415.6-2.2 1977TAM7.43.08.18.9-0.8 1985PHI17.93.020.017.4+2.6 1970NOR12.31.514.122.2-8.1 1982KAN19.614.021.221.4-0.2 1977BUF11.43.012.817.5-4.7 1975NOR11.81.513.511.9+1.6 1974PHI17.38.018.922.1-3.3 1990NOR17.17.518.518.8-0.3 The Bengals entered this year as playoff contenders with a retooled offense that was considered one of the fastest units in the NFL. But two games into the season, they’ve kicked three field goals. And that’s it, that’s all the points the team has scored. Cincinnati’s inability to score a touchdown in its first two games (both losses) has led to the quick dismissal of offensive coordinator Ken Zampese in his 15th season with the team.It may not sound like that big a deal to be held without a touchdown for the first two games of the season, but going back to 1970, this has only happened 15 times prior to 2017. Another eight teams registered only a return touchdown, failing to score with their offense.The 23 teams that got left at the starting gate should not give Bengals fans much confidence in this year’s unit. These offenses would go on to average 17 points per game for the remainder of the season. If you include the two clunkers each team had in Weeks 1 and 2, the group finished the season with a paltry 15.6 points per game. When compared to their previous season’s scoring output, teams — not counting the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were an expansion team and so did not have a previous season — declined by an average of three points. 2016LAR14.04.515.417.5-2.1 1997IND19.68.021.319.8+1.5 read more

Beside The Points For Monday Nov 13 2017

NBA Oh, and don’t forgetoh no I hope the poor guy is okay We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆  Join the squad. Subscribe Things That Caught My EyeI still can’t believe they televised itThe San Francisco 49ers beat the New York Giants 31 to 21 at home Sunday. This was a historically awful game. According to ESPN Stats & Info, it is only the third time in the Super Bowl era when two teams with only one combined win entered a game in Week 10 or later. This travesty was televised in two of America’s biggest media markets. New York is now 1-8 and San Francisco is 1-9. If anything, this hampers San Francisco’s quest for the top overall pick of the draft: Last week they were projected to finish the season with 1.6 wins, compared to the 1.5 wins projected for the Cleveland Browns and 4.0 wins projected for New York. But after Sunday, Cleveland is projected to get 1.4 wins, San Francisco is forecasted to finish with 2.4, and New York with 3.2. [ESPN]Awful challenges have a new godYesterday Chicago Bear Benny Cunningham caught a football and came quite close to the end zone with it. The refs said it was not a touchdown. Coach John Fox disagreed and challenged that call, arguing that it was indeed a touchdown. Upon review, the refs noticed that Cunningham actually fumbled the ball at the pylon and, thus, not only was the play not a touchdown, but indeed it was no longer even Bears ball, and that posession went to Green Bay. This single sequence of events reduced Chicago’s win probability by 20 percent. They’d lose 23-16. [ESPN, The Ringer]Notre Dame, outCongratulations to the University of Miami, who after routing Notre Dame now have 48 percent chance of making the college football playoff. I want to apologize to John Kelly of Jersey City, N.J. for elevating his hopes of Notre Dame’s playoff potential. That’s on me, buddy. [FiveThirtyEight]Badgers doing goodThere are 20 schools that rank among the top 50 all-time winningest schools in both men’s NCAA football and basketball. As it stands right now — comparing the harmonic mean of the basketball and football teams of those schools — the University of Wisconsin is currently the best two-sport school in the country. [FiveThirtyEight]Philadelphia has hope for the first time in city’s sporting history, let’s keep inflating thatThe Sixers look really solid. This is an absurd thing after what they’ve endured over the past several years. Through Sam Hinkie’s tenure as general manager, the 76ers plunged to a depth of Elo ratings that it’s rare to recover from, yet here we stand with a Sixers team in spitting distance of average, nay, good even. Only six teams in NBA history have pulled off such an awful nosedive and peeled out of it in a similar timely fashion. [FiveThirtyEight]U.S. Wins!Team USA has won the Four Nations cup in Tampa topping the women’s national hockey teams of Canada, Finland and Sweden with a 5-1 defeat of Canada in the final in Tampa on Sunday. This bodes very well for the team at the Olympics this winter. [USA Hockey, The Ice Garden]Make sure to try your hand at our fun NFL can you beat the FiveThirtyEight predictions? game!Big Number21.4 percentWith the 49ers win over the Giants, only one team in the league does not yet have a win, the Cleveland Browns. From now until week 11 through week 17, FiveThirtyEight gives the Brown’s opponents a respective 77 percent, 82 percent, 82 percent, 78 percent, 73 percent, 78 percent and 93 percent chance of beating them. Combine that and you get a 21.4 percent chance that each of the Browns opponent wins and thus Cleveland finishes 0-8. Still, that does mean that the team has an implied 78.6 percent chance of not going undefeated. The question is, how lucky does Cleveland feel? [FiveThirtyEight, Walt Hickey]Leaks from Slack: Men have some work to do College Football See more college football predictions See more NBA predictions See more NFL predictions emily:[11:24 PM]fun lil *A Tale of Two National Teams* going on with the USA W/M Ice Hockey teams. Circumstances are a lil different of course (no NCAA players called up yet, a big deal for a non-NHLer MNT), but both teams played in Four Nation Tournaments this past weekend, the WNT at the Four Nations against some big competition in Canada, Finland and Sweden. They left the champions and undefeated, beating Canada twice! The MNT played the Deutschland Cup against the not-so-big competition of Russia, Germany, and Slovakia. They left winless with a goal differential of 4-12. The WNT had a goal differential of 22-5.[11:25]I am immensely curious to see how this all pans out in PyeongChang both in performance and media coverage.Predictions NFL All newsletters read more

Buckeyes rely on goalie play to snap skid

The Ohio State men’s soccer team has had success thanks to great play from its goalkeepers, especially from redshirt freshman Matt Lampson.“He has been playing very well lately,” coach John Bluem said. “I think Matt has taken the position now, it’s going to be his and he is going to try and hold onto it.”The freshman stepped up early in the season and helped guide OSU to its best start in school history.A week ago, the Big Ten named Lampson the conference’s defensive player of the week because of his stellar play against Michigan State.On the season Lampson has three shutouts and .93 goals against average.But Lampson is not the only goalkeeper OSU has on its roster, and Bluem is confident in every one of the young keepers. The Buckeyes have three solid goalies who could potentially take the starting job.Other then Lampson, the Buckeyes have redshirt sophomore Ryan Dalton, who has been seeing more and more play time because of his solid play.OSU also has a true freshman in Alex Wimmer, who is ready to go when his number is called. Had Wimmer not been injured at the beginning of the season, he would have challenged for the starting spot.Coming into the season, Bluem worried his team might be inexperienced at goalie.“No worries anymore,” Bluem said. “Wimmer is ready to go if we need him, Dalton has played really well in the times we used him and Lampson is in really good form right now. I am very pleased at the way they have been playing.”The Buckeyes, however, are in the middle of a tough stretch of games.The team has lost its last two games, 3-0 to Akron and 1-0 to Northwestern. After the Northwestern loss, Bluem questioned the team’s level of effort.“It’s a tough stretch. Hopefully we can address some things and come out with a more intense effort,” Bluem said.With a full schedule ahead, the team wants get back on the field quickly and perform better. OSU is hoping that is the case when they face Cleveland State on Friday.Cleveland State (3-4-3) comes into the game struggling on offense, scoring only one goal in its last three games.But with 11 seniors and the entire defense returning, the Buckeyes will have to be ready.Friday’s match will be played at 5 p.m. at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. read more

Mens hockey team bonds over bowling

Ohio State men’s hockey coach Mark Osiecki wanted to let the team relax and focus a few days before the playoff series against Lake Superior State. So he took them bowling. Osiecki, in his first season as the Buckeyes’ coach, said he had done this with previous teams and likes the idea. “It’s something I’ve done in the past,” Osiecki said. “We wanted to create team togetherness.” The players, who say they had no idea Osiecki was going to do this, ended up bowling with the lower half of their hockey equipment on. “He made us wear our bottom-half gear, so a lot of guys had on their shin guards and pants and stuff. So it was a little awkward, but it was a lot of fun,” junior goalie Cal Heeter said. “Everyone was laughing and having a good time.” Senior forward Peter Boyd said he was surprised by the idea but thought the team did a good job of taking it in. “I thought it was a great idea,” he said, “and the guys really responded well to it.” The Buckeyes (15-16-4, 10-14-4 CCHA) have lost nine of their past 11 games. They will take on Lake Superior State (10-15-9, 8-12-8 CCHA) in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., in the first round of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association Tournament. The best-of-three series will match up the ninth-seeded Buckeyes with the eighth-seeded Lakers. When the teams played each other Feb. 18–19 in Columbus, Lake Superior State winning the first game in a shootout, and OSU winning the second one, 5-2. But Boyd said he isn’t looking at what has happened this season, just what the team has ahead of it. “Playoff hockey is a new season,” he said. If the Buckeyes win the series against the Lakers, they could play Michigan, Notre Dame or Miami (Ohio), depending on who wins the other first-round series. Friday’s game is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. Saturday’s and Sunday’s (if necessary) are scheduled for 7:05 p.m. read more

Police review surveillance video in Carlos Hyde alleged assault case

Lantern file photoThe Columbus Division of Police have obtained surveillance video of an alleged assault of a woman at a Columbus bar Saturday, in which Ohio State football player Carlos Hyde was named as a “person of interest,” Columbus Police Sgt. Richard Weiner confirmed Wednesday to The Lantern.Weiner said police are reviewing the surveillance video of the incident, which occurred at about 2 a.m. Saturday at the Sugar Bar 2, located at 303 S. Front Street, according to a Columbus Police report.The woman told police she did not know the suspect who allegedly assaulted her but could identify him, according to the report.No charges have been filed against Hyde, but the investigation is still ongoing, Weiner said. Columbus Police have not yet interviewed the woman.According to a Tuesday report from Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports, the surveillance video shows Hyde did not appear to make contact with the alleged victim. Weiner did not confirm or deny this information.Hyde has been suspended from all football team activities pending the outcome of student code of conduct and criminal investigations.Hyde, a senior running back, is expected to be a starter for the Buckeyes this season if he is reinstated. He finished second on the Buckeyes with 970 rushing yards last season, and led the team with 16 rushing touchdowns.Hyde was named to the 2013 preseason Doak Walker Award watch list, an award given to the top college football running back. read more