Wednesday, December 31, 2008

More Proof NBA Referees Are Terrible

During yesterday's game between the Celtics and Blazers something odd occurred. Portland scored a basket... with six players on the court. Even more incredulous, the referees allowed the basket to stand. Mike Callahan said in a statement after the game that the field goal wouldn't have counted if the officials saw it beforehand. Hmm, really Mike?

Here's video of the bizarre play. Witness the strangeness for yourself. SI's Ian Thomsen comes down hard on the incident, calling it the worst official decision he has ever witnessed at a sporting event. To me, it's another example of why Tim Donaghy was not the biggest referee problem with the NBA. Constant incompetence by the refs has plagued the league for years. Superstar calls, favoring the home team as well as inconsistent officiating between the regular season and the playoffs has been the hallmark of NBA refs. This is only the latest, and perhaps most obvious, example.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Go Read Shark Bytes

Jerry Tarkanian, legendary former coach of UNLV basketball, writes a blog for the Las Vegas Sun called Shark Bytes. Most of the Shark's two dozen or so entries deal with the NCAA screwing him over throughout the years, but there's other good stuff here as well.

Two of my favorite stories are the slippery recruitment of Sam Bowie and when Jimmy Valvano begged one of Tarkanian's players not to punch him.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Slowest Hurricane Ever

What a disastrous two-minute drill by Miami at the conclusion of tonight's Emerald Bowl. The Cal Bears scored a late touchdown off a turnover and held on for the 24-17 victory. But really it was QB Jacory Harris and the Hurricane offense who gave the game away.

After Harris fumbled deep in his own territory the Bears found the endzone with 2:41 left in the game. Check out the play-by-play for the final possession. Miami needs a touchdown... so it runs nine plays and gains twelve yards. Yikes. Harris inexplicably took his time calling plays, ran with the ball when he should have thrown it away and failed to get out of bounds when necessary. Coach Randy Shannon was so frustrated he called Miami's final timeout after the clock was stopped following an incomplete pass.

That might have been the worst two-minute I've even seen. It made the Philadelphia Eagles offense look like the 2007 New England Patriots.

Mariners Sex Toy

So I'm browsing the online MLB Shop for Seattle Mariners t-shirts (I'm a huge M's fan in case that wasn't obvious) and I come across this ghastly item:

Maybe I'm crazy, but maybe this really looks like a Felix Hernandez, Ichiro and Erik Bedard sex swing doll.

Forever Collectibles Seattle Mariners Team Celebration Ornament

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Origin of a Certain Kind of Awesomeness

I've read about the story of how John Tesh came up with the beat that became the theme song of The NBA on NBC. To actually hear it from the man himself is, wow, what a treat.

And the legend of "Roundball Rock" grows.

UPDATE: Tesh tells the story on his blog. And you can download the song for free!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mariner Fans Are Pessimistic And/Or Realistic

Do you expect your favorite MLB team to be competitive in 2009?

Give M's fans credit; we aren't blatant homers. I agree with the majority of Washington state and believe Seattle will not be competitive. That being said, I expect the Mariners to field a .500 ballclub in 2009 with an eye toward long-term success.

I really can't emphasize how happy I am with new GM Jack Zduriencik and the direction he's taking this franchise. Also credit has to go to Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong. These two have meddled in baseball operations for far too long but now they finally are backing off and letting smarter guys run the show.

Chase Utley Is More Valuable Than Ryan Howard

Back in October the Philiadelphia Phillies won the World Series. The team's success was mostly attributed to a trio of infielders: 1B Ryan Howard, 2B Chase Utley and SS Jimmy Rollins.

The mainstream media and many fans consider Howard, the slugging first baseman and former MVP winner, as the best player on the team. Most people would say Rollins (also a former MVP) is the second-best, followed by Utley.

And those people would be hideously incorrect.

wOBA* = weighted On Base Average (Park Adjusted)
In essence a variant of OPS that uses weighted values to determine a player's offensive production. For example, walks and singles are both worth 1 using OPS because they both advance the batter one base. However using wOBA* a single is more valuable than a walk (.77 to .62) because in the event of a single there is a chance that the defense will create a error, thus creating additional bases. Also other baserunners can advance more than one base on a single.

Park-adjusted alters statistics to what they would be in a neutral park. A right-handed hitter who plays games in Petco Park would have better numbers if he played at Fenway Park. For example, 320-foot flyball to left field would be a out in San Diego but a home run in Boston. The same player with the same skillset would produce vastly different numbers playing in those different stadiums, so park-adjusted tries to correct inflation and deflation created by the unique dimensions and quirks of MLB parks.

Number of runs saved over 150 games. Defense is the most subjective and controversial to quantify using statistics. For this post I'm using information provided by Tiger Tales. The defensive stats are Zone Rating, Revised Zone Rating, Probabilistic Model of Range, Fielding Bible, Ultimate Zone Rating and Fan Fielding Survey. All of these are considered valid, although no single metric is considered "the" statistic to measure defense. Generally speaking, +20 is incredible and -20 is horrible. Knowing all this I considered these numbers and what I've personally seen from and read about the players to determine their defense.

Win adjustments made to defensive positions. Since it's more difficult to find talent who can play catcher, shortstop and center field those positions receive the biggest win boosts. Conversely, it's easier to plug in people at first base and DH, so those positions receive the biggest losses.

Playing Time
Expressed as a decimal. If a player plays a full season then it's 1. If a half season then .5 and so on.

WAR = Wins Above Replacement
How many wins a player is worth compared to freely available talent (i.e. decent minor leaguers).

Market Value = WAR x 4.25
How much a player is worth in the free market (in millions).

So why do the numbers hate Howard so much? Because he's a feast-or-famine free swinger. He creates an out two-thirds of the time, with about half of those coming on strikeouts. And while Howard may be the most prolific home run in baseball he doesn't possess all-around power, with only a career-high in doubles of 26. Plus he's a below-average defender (-10 < x < 0) at a position where it's easy to find someone with a decent glove.

Meanwhile, Utley is a stellar defender (5 < x < 15) at a position where good gloves are difficult to find. Also his offensive production is stellar. He has great all-around power and gets on base (i.e. prevents outs). In fact, Utley actually accumulated more total bases than Howard in 2008.

Some would point out something like Howard's obscene RBI totals and argue he's more valuable because he produced the most runs for the team. A stat like RBI isn't an indicator of talent but rather circumstance. Players can't control who's on base, who's pitching, what stadium they play in or a lot of other issues. And of course, Howard needed guys like Rollins and Utley on base to drive in. Placing Howard in a bad offense and environment (Washington) would skew his peripheral numbers but not his true skillset.

The spreadsheet I used can be found here. Player wOBA* can be found at StatCorner. And here's a list of the top fifty players of 2008 that uses different sabermetrics than I did. Guess what, it's not crazy about Ryan Howard either.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Disaster Averted

U.S.S. Mariner lost the College Scholarship because a popular progressive blog constantly bombarded its readers to vote for another progressive blog. Politics, sheesh.

Anyway, this story has a happy ending. USSM Readers (including yours truly) contributed to a Dave Cameron scholarship fund and raised $8,826.76. Furthermore, the college scholarship rewarded him with $2,000 for being the runner-up. This is awesome, much like the Mariners offseason.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

He Said What?

Overheard at the end of today's episode of PTI:

Tony Kornheiser: Candace Parker and Sheldon Williams have eloped. You have marriage advice for them?
Michael Wilbon: I got great advice. Threesomes keep it interesting.

UPDATE: visuals!

New Yorkers Desperate to Learn More About Backup Outfielder

Mets, Mariners and Indians engage in three-way.