Three years ago at about this time, the Green Bay Packers were coming off a Super Bowl victory and embarking on a landmark season. They’d eventually become only the sixth team in NFL history to win 15 or more regular-season games. And while Green Bay’s campaign ended on a sour note, with an upset loss to the New York Giants in the divisional playoffs, the Packers had already won Super Bowl XLV with their current core of players (including the ever-coveted elite quarterback in Aaron Rodgers) and seemed poised to contend for even more over the next five to 10 years.But since the end of the 2011 regular season, the Packers have won 21 games, lost 17 and tied once (including the postseason), a record that would be a toss-up to make the playoffs most years. They went through a seven-game stretch without Rodgers last season, during which the team went 2-4-1. But even with Rodgers at the helm over the past three seasons, the Packers have won just 19 of his 31 starts — only good for about 9.8 wins per 16 games. That includes a 1-2 start to current season and the 19-7 egg they laid Sunday against the Detroit Lions.So, what happened? The Packers had used a historically great passing game to paper over other weaknesses. But Green Bay’s passing game hasn’t been elite this season. The luster is gone.The Lions have shown all the earmarks of a good defense in the early going this season, but it’s hard to imagine an offensive group as talented as the Packers mustering just 147 net passing yards and a measly 223 total yards against Detroit. The Lions combined outstanding run defense (Green Bay’s rushing plays cost them a staggering 10.37 expected points, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com) with opportunistic pass-rushing (they only pressured Rodgers five times per Pro Football Focus’s numbers but had two drive-killing third-down sacks). Detroit also limited Green Bay “explosives” (none of their 51 plays gained more than 18 yards), holding the once-vaunted Packers’ offense to a single touchdown.Even when Green Bay was at their best in 2011, they relied heavily on Rodgers and the passing game. The Packers posted the league’s top record and second-best point differential despite a defense that allowed the most passing yards in NFL history and a running game that was little better than average on a per-play basis. Rodgers earned MVP honors by spearheading the league’s best aerial attack in a season that rewrote the passing sections of the NFL record book.According to a Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) score I created based on Pro Football Focus’s player grades, Rodgers accounted for a larger proportion of his team’s total value than any of the other popular MVP candidates in 2011.But this year, Green Bay is scoring only 18 points per game, and Rodgers ranks just 18th among qualified quarterbacks in adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A) thus far. Granted, that number has come against an above-average slate of pass defenses — headlined by the Legion of Boom opening night — but he’s still only 10th in the league if we use the ANY/A allowed by each opponent last year to set up an expected level of performance in each game.Rodgers’s completion percentage is down — despite settling for shorter completions than in the past — and he’s also taking more sacks. But it’s not all the QB’s fault. In 2011, he had a pair of very good wide receivers in Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson; this year, Nelson has been tremendous and that’s about it. Randall Cobb, the Packers’ fourth wideout last year (by targets), has been pressed into No. 2 duty. The results haven’t been great. In PFF’s estimation, Nelson and tight end Andrew Quarless have been Rodgers’s only above-average targets so far.And the Packers’ running game has provided even less support than usual, ranking 29th in the NFL if we sum and normalize their PFF rushing and run-blocking grades. You don’t need fancy stats to see they’re also averaging 3.6 yards per carry, despite running an array of draws and delays in an attempt to capitalize on the respect afforded Rodgers and the passing game.It’s still quite early to definitively boot the Packers out of the Super Bowl contender pool, but their Elo rating (1481) is below the league-average of 1,500 — the lowest it’s been since losing to a formerly winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad in Week 9 of the 2009 season. Rodgers and company rallied from that loss to win seven of their next eight games to close out the regular season, but it remains to be seen whether this Packers team has a similar recovery in it.
Month: September 2019
The NFL has suspended New York Giants‘ Will Hill for four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. This is the safety’s second drug suspension in two just years.Last year, Hill fought to make the Giants team after going undrafted, yet only played 12 games. Halfway through the season, he tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug Adderall and was suspended four games for the violation.Hill will sit out the first four games of the Giants’ season, however, he can still participate in training camp and all preseason games. He will be eligible to return Monday, Sept. 30.Hill commented on his suspension last year saying, “I accept full responsibility for this situation, and it won’t happen again.”Really?
Oops Serena Didnt Mean to Go Public with PregnancyOops Serena Didnt Mean to Go Public with Pregnancy
Serena Williams reacts after defeating her sister Venus during their women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Serena Williams says she was taking a personal photo of her progressing pregnancy on Snapchat when she accidentally pressed the wrong button and made the post public.The photo of the tennis superstar in a one-piece bathing suit was captioned “20 weeks.” Despite the lack of information, it immediately made headlines around the world last week. Her publicist later confirmed the pregnancy to The Associated Press.Williams told Gayle King at the TED2017 Conference in Vancouver on Tuesday night that the mishap wasn’t a big deal because she planned to share the news shortly.Williams says she plans to return to the court after becoming a mom, adding, “My baby is going to be in the stands, hopefully cheering for me and not crying too much.”
Trump Demands ESPN Apologize for Jemele Hill Tweet CallingTrump Demands ESPN Apologize for Jemele Hill Tweet Calling
Jemele Hill (Photo by John Salangsang/Invision/AP, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is calling on ESPN to apologize days after one of the sports network’s anchor Jemele Hill tweeted that he was a “white supremacist” and “bigot.”ESPN said Thursday it had accepted the apology of its “SportsCenter” host Jemele Hill for her tweets about Trump Monday. Hill said Thursday she was sorry for causing her employer trouble.ESPN has repeatedly said Hill’s comments don’t reflect the view of the network. But that apparently hasn’t satisfied Trump. He demanded on Twitter early Friday that ESPN “Apologize for untruth!”The president also took a shot at falling ESPN subscriber numbers, writing: “ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers.”The network didn’t immediately issue a response to the president’s comments Friday.
A tough third-round matchup. Pittsburgh, despite a No. 9 seed, was a reasonably clear favorite against No. 8-seeded Colorado on Thursday, according to our model. And the Panthers dominated the Buffaloes, pulling ahead 46-18 by halftime and eventually winning by 29 points. Computer systems like Ken Pomeroy’s regard Pittsburgh as having the strength of a typical No. 4 or No. 5 seed. This could be a challenging matchup for Florida. The Gators played a tough out-of-conference schedule, but they’ve faced just two ranked teams since Jan. 1 in a weak basketball year for the SEC. Which NCAA team had the worst day on Thursday? The obvious answer might be Ohio State, Cincinnati or Oklahoma, all of which succumbed to lower-ranked teams in the basketball tournament’s round of 64. Or perhaps North Carolina State, which squandered a 16-point lead against Saint Louis and lost in overtime.But none of those teams had much chance of winning the championship. Meanwhile, Florida, a tournament favorite, ended Thursday in a worse position than it started, despite winning its opening game against Albany. (Of course, Ohio State would still probably trade places with the Gators.)In the latest FiveThirtyEight forecast, updated with game results and injury information as of early Friday morning, Florida’s probability of winning the tournament is 11 percent. Twenty-four hours ago, it was 14.5 percent.How did the Gators’ odds get worse? There are three contributing factors:A closer-than-expected game against Albany. Florida defeated No. 16 seed Albany by 12 points, a final score that conceals a game that was competitive until late in the second half. But the Gators were favored by 22 to 23 points according to Las Vegas sportsbooks and power ratings. Our research suggests that performance relative to power ratings and point spreads early in the tournament has a fair amount of say in predicting how a team fares later on. Florida’s performance was forgivable, and the team remains the favorite in the South region, but the Gators will need to be sharper as the competition improves. Threats in the regional finals. The South may not be as loaded as the East or the Midwest. But the No. 3-seeded team, Syracuse, turned in an excellent performance in its win against Western Michigan. The Gators will likely have to defeat either the Orange or No. 2-seeded Kansas to reach the Final Four. Meanwhile, Kansas coach Bill Self sounds increasingly confident that injured center Joel Embiid will be able to return at some point in the tournament, even as he confirmed that Embiid is likely out for the opening weekend.
Why 2014s NFL Draft Picks Should Hope Next Years Picks Are BadWhy 2014s NFL Draft Picks Should Hope Next Years Picks Are Bad
We won’t be able to fully assess the quality of this year’s NFL draft class until all the players retire. But we can be pretty sure their success will depend on more than innate ability. One important factor will be something they have little control over: The more success produced by a draft’s immediate predecessor and successor, the less value that draft is likely to produce.It’s a surprising finding. Normally we’d expect talent to be roughly equally distributed each draft, with some fluctuations. The draft process isn’t entirely random: College players can leave school early. But that should smooth any fluctuations, because the draft is, after all, an efficient market, so rational players should time their exit for when they’ll have the least competition from their peers.And yet, total value from a single draft depends on the year before and the year after.Two explanations strike me as most plausible.The first is that the total talent entering the draft each year does oscillate. That could happen because a particularly strong college class will get a disproportionate share of playing time and coaching, leaving surrounding classes weaker.The second possible explanation is that NFL teams can only play 11 men at a time; being surrounded by other young athletes getting a lot of playing time makes it harder for rookies to get on the field. That suggests that the underperforming draft class’s sin isn’t being less talented, but having bad timing, and therefore less opportunity.I think one of these two explanations is more likely than the other. But before I explain why, here’s what I did:I downloaded the data for every draft from 1970 — the year the AFL and NFL merged — to 2013 from Pro-Football-Reference. For each drafted player, each year, the website lists his career contribution to team success. Its unit of measure is the player’s approximate value (AV), an all-encompassing estimate of a player’s usefulness, for all positions. For its draft pages, PFR doesn’t use a simple sum of AV, but instead an alternative measure that takes into account a player’s overall career contribution and his peak value. (100 percent of his best single-season AV, plus 95 percent of his second-best season total, and so on.)To compare adjacent draft classes’ total AV, I had to account for the varying number of draft picks in a given season: as low as 222 in 1994, as many as 487 in 1976. For each pair of adjacent drafts, I chose the lower of the pair’s number of picks, n, and summed the AV of the players selected in the first n picks, for each draft. I then restricted the analysis to the period 1970 to 2002, because many of the players for subsequent seasons remain active, which could affect the year-to-year correlations. Then I checked the correlation of one draft class’s total value to the total value of the preceding and subsequent drafts. Each correlation was -0.54. The negative sign means the higher one class’s value, the lower the preceding year’s and following year’s. And the correlation was even more strongly negative between the value of one year and the average of the value for the year before and after: -0.7.The most extreme fluctuation, as Brady Butterfield noted this week on his blog, was from 1982 to 1983. The 1983 class, which included six Hall of Famers in the first round, produced 53 percent more AV than the year before. It also produced 36 percent more AV than the 1984 class.I then performed similar checks of offensive stats to see whether they hinted at the reason for the negative correlation. I wanted to check whether the effect was due to opportunity or performance. Counting stats represent opportunity: If players are getting on the field more, they’ll put up better numbers and higher AV totals, on average. Rate stats represent quality of performance: The more a player does with his opportunities, the better his rate stats and higher his AV totals.What I found is that opportunity was the chief driver of the results. Counting stats exhibited the same sort of negative correlation from year to year, especially for quarterbacks: For completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns, the higher the numbers the classes before and after compiled in their career, the lower the numbers that year’s class racked up, with a correlation for each of about -0.4. Yet for rate stats, the opposite effect held: The higher completion percentage and passer rating were for neighboring years, the higher it was for that year’s draft class, with a correlation for each of about 0.5. Quarterbacks surrounded by draft classes with lots of QBs who got a lot of playing time got to play less, but when they did, they were better. That suggested they had to do better to even get the chance to play.Opportunity matters in sports, as in other walks of life. General managers are inclined to give top draft picks playing time in the hope they’ll justify the pick. The careers of Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell demonstrate this phenomenon on a micro level. The macro-level data tells the same story.
Skeptical Football A Tale Of Two Quarterbacks Struggling Against The Buffalo BillsSkeptical Football A Tale Of Two Quarterbacks Struggling Against The Buffalo Bills
There’s a bit of a schism in sports fandom. On one side there are those who want more and more statistical analysis (Hi, everybody!); on the other there are those who think stats are overused and blanch at how sabermetrics and analytics have changed what it means to be a good fan.But I have a theory about this latter group: In general, they’re not really anti-stats. Virtually every argument about sports on TV or online is made using stats of one sort or another.1My wife, who is not a sports fan herself, describes “Pardon The Interruption” as “a bunch of guys shouting numbers at each other until a bell rings.” A typical exchange between talking heads includes one guy emphasizing one set of stats (“He throws a lot of touchdowns!”), which is then countered by another (“But he throws too many interceptions!”). Almost no sports fans are truly anti-stats, they’re just anti-complicated, hard-to-understand stats.And to some extent, they’re right. Over-reliance on advanced metrics can lose the forest for the trees, and vice versa. But, ideally, good stats aren’t meant to eradicate classic storylines or debates, but to lend context to them (and hopefully to shed new light on difficult questions along the way). As usual, let me illustrate with an example using Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers.The Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers each played the Buffalo Bills in Weeks 14 and 15 of this season, respectively. In both games, the MVP-candidate QBs “struggled” statistically. This shouldn’t be a total surprise: Despite having games against Manning, Rodgers and Tom Brady, Buffalo has had arguably the best defense in the NFL this year (judging by expected points denied per play).But Rodgers’s and Manning’s stats seemed particularly bad. Each threw two interceptions, no TDs and fewer than 200 yards. Manning’s 51-game TD streak ended, and Rodgers threw just his fourth and fifth INTs of the season.The media wasn’t kind to either quarterback, but much of it was particularly brutal to Manning. Here’s the Colorado NBC affiliate: “Denver wins despite Manning’s worst game as a Bronco.” Meanwhile, a number of stories about Green Bay’s loss emphasized Rodgers’s lack of interceptions this year or the fact that his receivers dropped or tipped some key passes.But not all no-TD, two-INT, 180-yard games are created equal. For example, Manning’s two interceptions were pretty “good” as far as interceptions go: the first was 42 yards downfield (which is practically a punt), and the other was 18 yards downfield on a third-and-12 — with the Broncos up 21-3. In general, it’s a bad idea to judge a QB who throws a small number of passes in a game his team led wire to wire.Besides, touchdowns and interceptions can be fickle: For example, sometimes a significant part of QB efficiency can be accounted for by whether his team likes to run or pass on first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. But a QB often has just as much of an effect on his team’s ability to run the ball as he does on its ability to throw it. (If all teams played optimally, game theory suggests he should affect them about equally, because opposing defenses should adapt to a stronger passing game by devoting more resources to it.)With some exceptions, it generally makes more sense to judge a QB by the outcomes of his team’s offensive drives. From this perspective, the difference between Manning vs. Buffalo and Rodgers vs. Buffalo was pretty stark. Here are the outcomes of each player’s drives by situation:Denver started out its game against Buffalo with a punt, then scored TDs on three of its next five drives (also, one of those drives ended in field goal range after Jacob Tamme fumbled a completed catch). Up 18 points in the second half, its offense stalled, particularly as it attempted to run more. But even counting those possessions, 10 (non-end-of-game) drives were turned into three TDs and one field goal. This may have been a bit of an off day for Peyton Manning, but that’s a good day for most QBs. Denver’s 2.18 points per drive was only slightly below its season average of 2.33, and was better than 24 teams have averaged in 2014. Green Bay’s offense, on the other hand, started out cold (punting on three of its first four drives), and basically stayed that way — ultimately scoring only 13 points on 13 drives.The point here isn’t to knock Rodgers or Green Bay. The Rodgers-led offense still leads the league with 2.7 points per drive this year, and with his TD/INT ratio (so beloved by media everywhere) still a league-best 7/1, Rodgers is still probably the MVP frontrunner. But we should understand the limitations of first-order stats that people are shouting about, and how they can be deceptive. What context do they include, and what do they ignore?Chart of the weekThe Seattle Seahawks’ defense has its own deceptive stats. The defending champions are in an odd spot. If the playoffs started today, the 10-4 Seahawks would play a wildcard game on the road against the 6-8 New Orleans Saints. And depending how the next two weeks go, they could easily end up as the top seed in the NFC, or out of the playoffs entirely.Two weeks ago, I introduced some “scoring curves,” and showed how Seattle’s defense (with the team 8-4 at the time) flirted with league average in many situations (such as when its opponent has a long way to go for a touchdown). Many readers expressed skepticism, particularly because Seattle has the best defense in the NFL by the old “yards allowed” metric, and is among the league leaders in points allowed per game (as well as yards per play against).I partially agree: I find it very unlikely that Seattle’s defense is average or below average. And I’m tempted to go further and say that it’s unlikely this defense is much worse than last year’s squad. But the stats show the defense has had a pretty huge regression to the mean in measurable defensive outcomes.To show just how much these kinds of things vary from season to season, I’ve plotted each team’s expected points allowed per play on offense vs. expected points allowed per play on defense, and then shown how this year’s iterations compare with last year’s:Seattle has had a pretty big decline on the defensive side, but this is to be expected: Last year’s results were a big outlier, and outliers are more likely to regress toward the mean. For example, Denver’s incredible 2013 offense declined similarly. Both remain among the top tier of teams for each respective side, but are much closer to the pack than they were last year.Once again, the context here is important, and this time for either side of the advanced-stats debate: Simply looking at basic defensive stats and saying that everything is fine with the Seahawks’ D misses a dramatic decline. But simply looking at the magnitude of the decline without considering the context would overvalue its importance.Twitter question of the week Like many counterfactuals, this is not an easy question to answer definitively, since having a kicker who is automatic from long range might have all kinds of ripple effects on the game that we can’t really foresee.(Although unlike many counterfactuals, it’s not a completely crazy idea: Thinking about a kicker who can usually nail it from 70 yards seems ridiculous to us now, but NFL kickers have steadily gotten better for at least 80 years, and they haven’t slowed down yet. In the 1960s, kickers made 13 of 129 kicks — 10.1 percent — from 50+ yards. In the past five years alone, NFL kickers have made 422 of 675 such attempts — for 62.5 percent. Since 2010, kickers have even made seven of 31 tries from 60+ yards — 22.5 percent.)If we simply replaced all a kicker’s misses with makes, an “automatic” kicker wouldn’t be worth much more than the worst kicker in the league. There’d be a few salvaged points here and there, but nothing major (kickers these days just don’t miss that often).But the real fun starts when we think about how a team would use a truly “automatic” kicker differently.To simplify the question, let’s assume the kicker makes 100 percent of his kicks instead of 95 percent — he’s “RoboKicker.” Using ESPN’s expected points model, we can identify all situations where a team would definitely want to make a FG attempt on fourth down if it knew it could automatically earn three points. A made kick is actually worth slightly less than that because the kicking team has to give up possession whether it makes the kick or not, but we’ll charitably give it full credit.2The actual value is probably somewhere around 2.6 points, but I think the charitable number is appropriate since the kicker is likely to be at least moderately more valuable strategically. So if a team is in RoboKicker’s range, it should want to attempt a field goal any time it’s fourth down and the expected value of its possession is less than three points. The value it gains from having that option is the difference between the two, and the kicker’s total value added is the sum of all those differences.This plot shows how much RoboKicker would be worth for an average team (since 2006) in expected points added per game, based on his range:This assumes the kicker would be just a normal kicker from longer distances than the one he’s automatic from, though if he was automatic from 50 yards he would probably be pretty good from 60,3Though if he were actually a robot, this may not be the case, as he would probably make about the same kick every time. which would carry additional value. But this is a fair first-order guess.The second wrinkle to @MattGlassman312’s question is its bit about RoboKicker being a No. 1 pick or an MVP. To answer that, we have to start to answer how valuable a No. 1 pick or an MVP is.Let’s use Peyton Manning as our stand-in for “best player in the league,” which helps us to answer at least the spirit of the question. When Manning was injured, the Indianapolis Colts’ average margin of victory dropped by 14.6 points per game (though this may have been in part because they were tanking so that they could draft Andrew Luck). And when Manning joined Denver, the Broncos’ average MOV rose by 17.1 points per game. But let’s assume that those years were outliers and assume that a typical MVP is worth about 10 points per game. To surpass that, RoboKicker would need to be able to hit from around 80 yards. (I confess, this is further out than I would have guessed.) Then, considering that even No. 1 picks have only about a 50 percent to 60 percent shot of ever making a Pro Bowl — much less of being MVP — I’d say being automatic from 50 to 60 yards would probably be sufficient to be worth the top pick in the draft most years.The Hacker Gods read FiveThirtyEight (or just love Andrew Luck)Last week’s games had a few outcomes consistent with this column’s most frequently asserted stereotypes. Most intriguingly, we saw win curve standout and two-time Gunslinger of the Week winner Andrew Luck4He won in Week 1 and again in Week 14 — you don’t remember? digging his own hole by throwing an early pick-6 that put the Colts down 7-0, and then climbing out of it to come back and win against the Houston Texans. This follows a similar Week 14 victory against the Cleveland Browns, when Luck was down 14 points in the second half after an early pick-6 (and a third-quarter fumble-6).If you’ve been reading Skeptical Football, you’ll know I’m generally pro-interception (at least certain kinds) — but as an indirect indicator of taking good risks. Normally, a quarterback will lose the games in which he throws interceptions. But so far in his young career, it seems like Luck has an uncanny talent for winning and throwing INTs in the same game. So, naturally, that got me wondering how these results compare to Peyton Manning’s and those of all other quarterbacks (since 2006):Luck shows a similar propensity for winning as his predecessor in Indianapolis, regardless of scenario. But the big caveat is that interceptions are often a function of losing as well as a cause of it. Generally this is because QBs make rational risk adjustments that lead to more interceptions when they’re behind.5There is also a smaller opposite effect, which is that QBs sometimes throw slightly more interceptions than expected in games they’re winning by wide margins, presumably because teams start playing a basic offensive set in blowouts rather than taking the extraordinary risk-avoidance measures they do to protect smaller leads. (Weird things happen in the NFL.) So to isolate the situations we’re most interested in, I limited the comparison to the number of interceptions thrown while the QB’s team was trailing (including only games in which the QB’s team trailed at some point):This is, of course, a small sample for Luck: He has two wins in the six games in which he threw two trailing INTs, and two wins in the five games he threw three. But those four wins in 11 games (36.4 percent success rate) are already more than Manning. Since 2006, Manning has just three wins in 24 games (12.5 percent) in which he threw two or more trailing interceptions, and all QBs since 2006 have only 56 wins in 1,025 such games (5.5 percent).Naturally, this relates back to my gunslinger hypothesis (that a quarterback can throw too few interceptions as well as too many). Andrew Luck is an example of someone who throws more interceptions than usual when his team is down, but wins more often. Overall, Luck has thrown one or more INT in 55.9 percent of games (19 of 34) in which he trailed and has won 52.9 percent of them (18 of 34). Other QBs have thrown one or more INT in 49.3 percent of games where they trailed, winning only 42.3 percent.You can continue like this for more drastic circumstances (more likely to require heavy risk-taking): Of the 19 games where Luck threw 1+ trailing INT, he threw 2+ in 57.9 percent (11 of 19) and won 36.8 percent (7 of 19). Other QBs have thrown an additional INT in 38.0 percent of such games and won only 16.3 percent (439 of 2,697).6And, if you need more: Of the 11 games in which Luck threw 2+ trailing INTs, he threw 3+ in 45.5 percent (5 of 11) and won 36.4 percent (4 of 11). Other QBs threw an additional INT in 30.3 percent of such games, and won only 5.5 percent.In other words, Andrew Luck is to gunslinging what Aaron Rodgers is to gunholstering.7However, for all that sound and fury about Luck, the actual Week 15 gunslinger winner was Mark Sanchez, who had two trailing interceptions for Philadelphia (in the third and fourth quarters), yet managed to take the lead (albeit briefly) in a game where the Eagles once trailed 21-0.Bonus chart of the weekAfter making the “team movement between 2013 and 2014” chart earlier, I thought it would be interesting to see how each team’s offensive and defensive performance has varied over the past five years. For this chart, I plotted expected points added per drive on offense and expected points denied per drive on defense for each of the last five years, and then connected them so you can see how each team has changed. Some teams have much tighter “shot groups” (Cleveland, New England) than others (Chicago, New York Giants), but I’ll leave you to look for yourself:Reminder: If you tweet questions to me @skepticalsports, there is a non-zero chance that I’ll answer them here.Charts by Reuben Fischer-Baum.
Justin Verlander Needs The Astros As Much As They Need HimJustin Verlander Needs The Astros As Much As They Need Him
WAR in table is a meta-metric that averages together several different versions of the statistic. Numbers accurate as of Friday morning.Source: TheBaseballgauge.com 5Joey Votto1BCIN54.366.695 18Carlos CorreaSSHOU14.467.056 12Buster PoseyCSF36.557.878 7Mike TroutCFLAA50.970.393 1Albert Pujols1BLAA100.666.6100% 4Robinson Cano2BSEA65.169.098 15Nolan Arenado3BCOL23.566.464 RKPLAYERPOSTEAMCAREERPOSITION HOF AVGHOF PROB. 16Jose Altuve2BHOU25.069.060 19Mookie BettsRFBOS18.771.255 8Chris SaleSPBOS36.269.883 24Kenley JansenRPLAD17.237.445 20Anthony Rizzo1BCHC26.066.655 11Manny Machado3BBAL27.566.480 22Bryce HarperRFWAS25.071.247 13Kris Bryant3BCHC18.766.473 WAR Hall voters probably won’t be looking only at WAR, which does help Verlander’s case. According to the more conventional indicators included in James’s Black Ink and Hall of Fame Monitor tests (which give more weight to peak performance), Verlander clears the traditional marks necessary for HOF inclusion. But he falls short in the Gray Ink and Hall of Fame Standards tests, which give more weight to long, consistent careers — underscoring just how much Verlander’s Cooperstown case swings depending on which factors you look at.Verlander’s postseason stats complicate his legacy even further. He’s no stranger to late-October baseball. He led the Tigers on two World Series runs, in 2006 and 2012, but both trips ended abruptly. Verlander was on the losing end of three of the nine games in those series. Aside from dominating sprints through the AL playoffs in 2012 and 2013 (in which he posted a microscopic 0.57 ERA2Weighted by innings pitched in each series.), Verlander has a 6.00 ERA in the rest of the postseason.3Also weighted by innings. So he has run both extremely hot and extremely cold in his playoff career.But the good news for Verlander is that the Astros will provide him with an opportunity to redeem those up-and-down postseason numbers. Houston has a world-beating offense, and one of its only weaknesses was a rotation that had enjoyed little health and even less consistency throughout most of the season. All due respect to Dallas Keuchel, who has been shaky since returning from injury — but with Verlander, the Astros have picked up a bona fide ace who can anchor the team multiple times in a series and let the big bats go to work.What makes this trade particularly rare is that players of Verlander’s reputation don’t tend to change addresses midseason, especially not while still producing strong numbers. Out of 1,608 regular-season trades listed on The Baseball Gauge since 1988, only 107 involve a marquee player as accomplished (by wins above replacement4Once again, using The Baseball Gauge’s meta-metric for WAR.) as Verlander. Swaps involving pitchers are rarer still, and once you consider that the Tigers ace still figures to produce 0.7 WAR over the rest of the season, only 30 trades are comparable to this one.This isn’t the first time that the Astros have picked up Hall of Fame-caliber pitching talent for the stretch run. In 1998, Houston swapped a trio of young players with the Seattle Mariners for Randy Johnson. Johnson performed admirably as the Astros clinched the division, but Houston lost to the Padres in the NLDS. Johnson would finally get his first (and only) World Series appearance three years later with Arizona.But the Johnson trade happened at the deadline, while the Verlander deal happened in August, which made this transaction even more unusual. Only 23 players who have been traded as the main piece after the deadline had as much total career value as Verlander; only six were pitchers. Even within that already small pool, half of the players made only minimal contributions to their new teams after the trade.Given Verlander’s strong performance already this year and Houston’s need atop its rotation, it seems a good bet that Verlander will make much more than a “minimal contribution.” For the sake of both parties’ long-term legacies, they’d better hope so. 6Clayton KershawSPLAD57.769.894 14Evan Longoria3BTB50.366.472 It was the trade that almost wasn’t (but then was). Just as talks between the Houston Astros and Detroit Tigers over ace pitcher Justin Verlander looked like they were breaking down Thursday, news broke overnight that the two clubs had agreed to terms — Verlander would be headed to Houston after all, as part of a deal that also included cash and prospects.This is a huge move for the Astros, who needed rotation help ahead of the playoffs. But it might prove to be a big turning point in Verlander’s career, too. Although Verlander has built an impressive résumé in 13 big league seasons, he might not be on a Hall of Fame track quite yet. So what he ends up adding to Houston’s postseason push this season might have an outsize effect on his eventual case for Cooperstown.Verlander is one of the best pitchers of his generation, of course. He has the fourth-most wins of any active pitcher and the third-most strikeouts. He’s one of only 22 pitchers to win an MVP award, and when he took home the honor in 2011, he was the first in nearly two decades to do it. But according to the advanced metrics — which are taking on more importance in the Hall of Fame voting process with each passing year — Verlander probably still has some work to do before locking down his status as a future Hall member.According to The Baseball Gauge’s wins above replacement meta-metric,1Which averages aspects of the WAR versions found at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com, in addition to Baseball Gauge’s own WAR metric. Verlander currently has 53.8 career WAR. The average starting pitcher in Cooperstown has 69.8, so the 34-year-old Verlander would need to tack 16 more WAR onto his lifetime total to reach the typical HOF level. Using a variant of Bill James’s “favorite toy” (which estimates a player’s chances of hitting a statistical milestone given his age and recent track record of production), The Baseball Gauge gives Verlander about a 47 percent chance of putting up the WAR necessary to hit the HOF average. That puts Verlander in a tie for 22nd-highest among active players (and trails fellow pitchers Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Chris Sale and Max Scherzer) in Hall of Fame probability: 3Miguel Cabrera1BDET66.466.6100 25Andrelton SimmonsSSLAA23.967.037 21Giancarlo StantonRFMIA34.471.253 2Adrian Beltre3BTEX80.966.4100 23Justin VerlanderSPDET53.869.847 10Paul Goldschmidt1BARI35.066.680 9Zack GreinkeSPARI55.669.881 Verlander’s Hall of Fame chances could use some helpFor active players, probability of matching the average career wins above replacement (WAR) for a Hall of Famer at the same position 17Max ScherzerSPWAS43.069.858
Womens Volleyball Ohio State sweeps Rutgers 30 for the second time thisWomens Volleyball Ohio State sweeps Rutgers 30 for the second time this
Starters from the Ohio State and Purdue women’s volleyball teams greeteach other prior to their match at St. John Arena on Friday, Oct. 27 in Columbus, Ohio.Purdue won the match 3-0. Credit: Jeff Helfrich | Lantern ReporterOhio State senior outside hitters Ashley Wenz and Luisa Schirmer led their team with 13 and 10 kills, respectively, en route to the Buckeyes’ 3-0 victory at Rutgers Wednesday night.The Buckeyes are now 14-12 overall and 7-8 in the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights drop to 5-22 and 0-15 in conference play.The first set was the closest for the two teams. The Scarlet Knights picked up the lead within the first couple points before tying six times with the Buckeyes. Ohio State quickly regained its momentum with a kill by Wenz and a block by sophomore middle blocker Madison Smeathers and freshman setter Becca Mauer. Although Rutgers trailed closely, the Buckeyes won the set 25-21.Once again the Scarlet Knights took the lead in the second set, but it wasn’t long before the Buckeyes turned it around with two consecutive aces from Schirmer. Ohio State buried 10 kills and registered two blocks in a 25-12 victory.Ohio State dispelled any chance of a comeback with a 7-0 run to open the would-be final set. Although the Scarlet Knights put away eight kills and a block, it was not enough to catch up to the Buckeyes and freshman outside hitter Ayanna Swan, who recorded four kills in Ohio State’s 25-17 third-set win to seal the match.Ohio State’s victory against Rutgers marked the 400th win of head coach Geoff Carlston’s 18-year career. He has been at the helm of the Buckeyes for 10 seasons.The Buckeyes continue their season at 9 p.m. Saturday in Iowa City, Iowa, against Iowa.
Football Former West Virginia quarterback Chris Chugunov to transfer to Ohio StateFootball Former West Virginia quarterback Chris Chugunov to transfer to Ohio State
Former West Virginia quarterback Chris Chugunov will transfer to Ohio State according to a report from Allan Taylor of The Dominion Post. Taylor also reported that the Skillman, New Jersey, native will be on scholarship for the Buckeyes. Ohio State currently has 85 players on its roster for the upcoming season. However, Chugunov has not enrolled at at the university yet, according to the report. A former three-star pro-style quarterback in the 2015 recruiting class, Chugunov has completed 12 of 21 career passes for the Mountaineers in two seasons, throwing one touchdown and one interception in four games played. Chugunov announced his intention to transfer on March 2, releasing a statement on Twitter. After graduating from West Virginia in May, he would have two remaining years of eligibility as a graduate transfer. Ohio State declined to comment for this story.
First case of sexually transmitted Zika virus in the UKFirst case of sexually transmitted Zika virus in the UK
A woman in the UK is thought to have been infected with the Zika virus through sexual transmission, health officials have said.Public Health England (PHE) said that one case of “likely sexual transmission” of Zika virus infection has been reported in the UK.Meanwhile, of the 265 travel-associated cases reported in Britain, seven have been diagnosed in pregnant women, PHE said. PHE said the case of sexually transmitted Zika virus was identified in a woman whose partner had recently visited an affected region.She has since made a full recovery, PHE said. One case has been reported from South East Asia and another has been linked to travel to Oceania.Professor Dilys Morgan, Zika incident director at PHE, said: “It is important to remember that the main risk relates to travellers to countries classified as high or moderate risk for Zika infection.”Zika infection is usually a mild, self-limiting illness, and PHE’s advice is based on the fact that our main concern is to avoid infection in pregnancy, in order to avoid risk to the unborn child.”Health officials advise that men who visit affected areas should use condoms for six months following their return.Women should avoid getting pregnant for at least two months after leaving an area deemed to have “high or moderate” risk of Zika virus transmission. The mosquito-borne disease has been linked to a birth defect called microcephaly, which results in children with abnormally small heads and brain damage.The mosquito that transmits the virus is not found in the UK so risk to the wider British public is deemed to be negligible by health leaders.Of the 265 British travellers identified as being infected with the virus, the majority of cases – 190 – are associated with travel to the Caribbean, according to the figures from Public Health England.Cases have been linked to travel to Barbados, Jamaica, St Lucia, Grenada, and Trinidad and TobagoMeanwhile, 33 cases have been linked to travel to South America and two cases have been associated to travel to Florida in the US. Dr Dipti Patel, director at the National Travel Health Network and Centre, said: “As we move towards holiday season with increased numbers of people visiting friends and relatives in Zika-affected areas, we recommend that all travellers seek out the latest travel health advice.”This particularly applies to pregnant women going to an area with active Zika virus transmission who should ensure they seek travel health advice from their GP or a travel clinic well in advance of their trip and consult the NaTHNaC website for up-to-date information on current outbreaks and country information.”Commenting on the news, Jimmy Whitworth, professor of international public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “News that one case of sexual transmission of Zika has occurred in the UK is not unexpected.”Zika is mainly transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito which is not present in the UK but we know it can also be passed on sexually.”About 60 cases of sexual transmission of Zika have been reported worldwide, so we think this is quite rare.” The current outbreak began in Brazil in 2015.Earlier this year, the virus’ link to microcephaly was deemed a public health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO).Officials lifted the declaration earlier this month but cautioned that the virus’ link to microcephaly was still a “significant and enduring public health challenge”. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
Number of patients forced on to mixedsex wards soars 70 in oneNumber of patients forced on to mixedsex wards soars 70 in one
Katherine Murphy, chief executive at the Patients Association, said: “Single-sex wards are an important component of preserving patient dignity in hospitals.”It is really concerning that over the past year there has been a sharp increase in the number of patients being placed on mixed-sex wards, as a result of mounting hospital pressures.”Protecting standards of patient safety must remain at the very heart of the NHS, and eliminating mixed-sex hospital accommodation is central part of this.”Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s health spokesman, said: “Tory cuts to social care have seen hospital attendances rocket and now the key standard of single-sex wards is being undermined.”The Prime Minister needs to get a grip and explain what she is going to do to fix the crisis she has created.”Former Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb said: “This is an embarrassment for the Health Secretary, who made great claims about the significant reduction in mixed-sex wards during the Coalition years.”There is no excuse for failing to afford people the basic dignity of single-sex accommodation in a modern health service. This is a result of the impossible financial pressure the NHS is under.” Ministers vowed to end the practice in 2010 following widespread public outcry and hospitals were ordered to pay out £250 for every mixed-sex breach – defined as a night spent by a patient on a mixed-sex ward.Then in October 2014 Jeremy Hunt hailed victory in war on mixed sex wards as figures showed the numbers were falling.But the latest NHS England figures have showed that there were 739 breaches in December, up from 339 in the same month in 2015.Many patients find having to share wards embarrassing. And research has shown they are at greater risk of attack.Dr Jacqueline McKenna, of the overseeing body NHS Improvement, blamed “busy” hospitals and said the priority was “the need to treat”.Latest figures from NHS England obtained by Labour show that in December alone there were 739 mixed-sex breaches.In fact a quarter of hospital trusts – 37 out of 152 – put a patient on a mixed-sex ward at least once last month.The worst was Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, run by Dartford and Gravesham trust, which had 151 breaches.Another 87 breaches were recorded by the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, run by East Kent Hospitals. The number of patients being forced on to mixed-sex wards has almost tripled despite a government pledge to crack down on the controversial practice.More than 7,100 had to share rooms with the opposite sex last year as the NHS struggled with a shortage of beds.That was up from 2,585 in 2014 and 70 per cent higher than the number in 2015. There is no excuse for failing to afford people the basic dignity of single-sex accommodation in a modern health service. This is a result of the impossible financial pressure the NHS is underJonathan Ashworth MP Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
Famous Scottish boarding schools named in child abuse inquiryFamous Scottish boarding schools named in child abuse inquiry
The inquiry is also investigating allegations over schools run by orders of the Roman Catholic Church. These include St Ninian’s in Falkland, Fife, which was run by the Christian Brothers, St Joseph’s in Tranent, East Lothian, and St Ninian’s at Gartmore, Stirlingshire. Centres run by the Church of Scotland are also being investigated.She appealed for people with information about abuse to contact the inquiry, which is expected to last four years, with the first public hearings to begin in May. The senior judge said 170 people had contacted the inquiry by last June, and many more had done so since.Lady Smith added: “Whatever you have to contribute, we want to hear it. We are determined to find out the truth about what happened to children in care, where, how and why.”We want to find out why the abuse was not prevented, why it was not stopped and what needs to be done to protect children in care in the future.”She said the inquiry had so far identified more than 100 locations, but was aware that there were “many more than that”.She also revealed that the inquiry had started taking statements from alleged victims last spring.The remit of the inquiry is to investigate the nature and extent of the abuse of children in care settings in Scotland within “the living memory of any who provides information about it, up to December 2014”.However, she also made clear that it had “no power” to award “monetary compensation” and was not a substitute for criminal proceedings. Some of Scotland’s most prestigious private schools, including the alma maters of the Prince of Wales and Tony Blair, are to be investigated as part of a national child abuse inquiry.Gordonstoun near Elgin, attended by Prince Charles, and Fettes College in Edinburgh, where Mr Blair was a pupil, are among 100 locations where historical abuse is alleged to have taken place.The figure includes more than 60 residential care establishments, including institutions run by religious orders and local authorities.Other prominent boarding schools being looked into include Loretto in Mussleburgh, Scotland’s oldest boarding School, Edinburgh’s Merchiston Castle School, the former Keil School in Dumbarton, and Morrison’s Academy in Crieff, when it was a boarding school.Lady Smith, the new chairman of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, named the schools at the start of the inquiry at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.Care organisations including Quarriers and Barnardo’s are also to be investigated by inquiry staff. Lady Smith speaking in EdinburghCredit:PA Lady Smith, who was speaking in the role for the first time, replaced the original chairman, Susan O’Brien QC, who resigned in July complaining of government interference and now plans to sue the Scottish Government for £500,000.John Swinney, the education minister, later told MSPs he had been considering her removal from the post over claims she made inappropriate comments about survivors, which she strenuously denies.Lady Smith insisted during the preliminary hearing that the investigation would be fully independent.She said: “The inquiry team is investigating boarding schools. Specifically, they are investigating Fettes Cottage, Gordonstoun, the former Keil School in Dumbarton, Loretto School, Merchiston Castle School and Morrison’s Academy, at the time it was a boarding school.”Other boarding schools may also be investigated to obtain as full a picture as possible of the nature and extent of abuse in boarding schools.” Fettes in EdinburghCredit:PA Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
Forensic officers begin painstaking search for evidence in New Palace Yard following WestminsterForensic officers begin painstaking search for evidence in New Palace Yard following Westminster
Forensic officers are combing the spot where Pc Keith Palmer was stabbed and his attacker was shot outside the Houses of Parliament during the Westminster terror attack.
ExEDL leader Tommy Robinson seen brawling at AscotExEDL leader Tommy Robinson seen brawling at Ascot
Former EDL leader Tommy Robinson has been filmed repeatedly punching a man at Ascot racecourse.The right-wing activist was caught on a coach’s dash cam footage pushing the man to the ground in a brawl.Robinson, wearing a black suit and shirt, throws around seven punches towards the man’s head before three other men step in to separate the pair. The incident is reported to have happened just after 7pm last night.It was unclear if Robinson threw the first punch and who the man in the footage was.In a tweet, Robinson said that he had been acting in “self defence”.He said: ‘”This is regarding an edited video being shared online regarding Tommy. Tommy Robinson caught on cameraCredit: Show more As Robinson held up a copy of the Koran, Morgan told him: “Show some damn respect for people’s religious beliefs.“You’re sounding like a complete lunatic. You’re sounding like a bigoted lunatic. You’re stirring up hatred.”However, Robinson said: “This book is the reason we are in such a mess.” “Tommy was at the races with his wife. This man followed them both to their coach abusing them.”Tommy and his wife went to board the coach but the man was not finished, he attacked Tommy and dragged him from the coach.”The man followed, instigated and attacked Tommy when he was with his wife. Tommy acted in self defence.” Last week, Robinson was accused of “sounding like a bigoted lunatic” by TV presenter Piers Morgan.Morgan was interviewing Robinson on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday morning in the wake of the of the Finsbury Park attack. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
However some Tory MPs have warned that the taxes are “regressive” and will penalise those who can least afford it.It comes after Theresa May was forced to water down plans to cap energy bills in the wake of the Conservative’s disastrous performance in the General Election.Before the election Mrs May pledged to cap expensive standard variable tariffs (SVTs) – so delivering a saving of up to £100 a year for 17million households.Since then the pledge appears to have been abandoned, with the regulator Ofgem instead being asked to come up with a more limited system of protection for “vulnerable” customers.The Government insists, however, that the pledge is “in no way off the table” and that it is “ruling nothing out”.British Gas said that the cost of green subsidies levied on bills has created “significant pressures” and suggested that it had no choice but to respond by raising prices. It said it is not blaming the Government but that “difficult decisions” about energy costs had had an impact on bills.”However the ministers last night hit back and suggested that the price rises are unjustified as it told the regulator to do more to safeguard vulnerable customers. Government sources highlighted the fact that British Gas is also axing a £15 dual fuel discount currently enjoyed by 3.1million of its customers from September. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. The cost of green taxes on energy bills will more than treble over the next five years, the official economic forecaster has said. The Office for Budget Responsibility said that cost of the subsidies, which are levied on household and business energy bills, is expected to rise from £4.6billion in 2015-16 to £13.5billion in 2021-22.It comes after British Gas claimed that green taxes will cost households £150 from next year as it blamed the Government for a huge rise in electricity bills.British Gas forecast that the cost of the subsidies, which are used to fund renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar, will hit £149 next year having risen by by two-thirds since 2014.It announced that 3million of its customers on a dual fuel standard variable tariff will see their bill rise by an average of £76 to £1,120.The figures will add to mounting tensions in the Conservative Party over the current push for renewable energy. Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, has signalled that more wind farms may need to be built to power a new generation of electric cars under Government plans to ban the sale of diesel and petrol vehicles. Asked about wind energy, he said that “we have no alternative to embracing new technology”.
National Gallery artwork is not insured and really vulnerable chairman admitsNational Gallery artwork is not insured and really vulnerable chairman admits
Rothschild, an author and philanthropist, said the public had twice protected the art work from vandals in recent times, saying the necessary lack of insurance was “shocking but true”.Sir Nicholas Serota, former head of the Tate galleries, said it too did not insure works hanging on its own walls, saying there was “every confidence” in the measures in place to protect them.Asked how much the paintings hanging in the National Gallery were worth by Sir David Tang, during a talk at the China Exchange, Rothschild replied: “I wouldn’t have a clue.“Incidentally, this isn’t something that we widely publish, but the fact is that the paintings at the National Gallery are not insured.“Because we couldn’t possibly afford to insure them. They are priceless. How could you possibly insure even just The Ambassadors?”She added of art galleries in general: “Nothing is insured in this country. You couldn’t possibly afford to insure them. The moment they go off-site on tour then they become insured.“They’re too valuable, they’re priceless. Shocking but true.” Speaking to Sir David during a later public talk, Sir Nicholas Serota was asked the same question.”The only things that are insured at the Tate are the works that are being lent to us,” he said.”We’re not allowed to insure because the cost to the Exchequer would be huge. And I think there’s every confidence in our security.”He added: “Which is not to say that nothing has ever disappeared from the Tate and not to say nothing has never been introduced to the Tate.”A spokesman for the National Gallery said: “The National Gallery takes every precaution to ensure the safety of its Collection, its visitors and staff.”However, we never discuss our security measures in detail as to do so could compromise our security.”The Gallery’s collection, when it is displayed on site, is not commercially insured consistent with the principle that Government property (including the whole of the British National Collection) is self-insured.”When we lend works we require borrowers to insure the works to their full value. Also, when the Gallery borrows from third parties the works we borrow are insured under the UK Government Indemnity scheme.” Works of art in the National Gallery are “really vulnerable”, the institution’s chairman has admitted, as she said members of the public are their “greatest defenders”.Hannah Rothschild disclosed none of the works at the gallery are insured because they are worth so much that no institution could afford the premiums.Instead, she said, room attendants are “extremely highly trained” in protecting the works, including on “how to intercept lunatics”. The fact is that the paintings at the National Gallery are not insured. Because we couldn’t possibly afford to insure themHannah Rothschild Room attendants are “extremely highly trained” in protecting the works, including on “how to intercept lunatics”Credit:UniversalImagesGroup Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Rothschild, an author and philanthropist, said the public had twice protected the art work from vandals in recent timesCredit:View Pictures/UIG via Getty Images On the question of what would happen if someone attempted to damage a painting, or there was a fire, she conceded: “Yeah, you’re in trouble.“The room attendants are extremely highly trained in all sorts of things including how to intercept lunatics. And there are CCTV cameras and everything else.“But yeah, it’s really vulnerable.”“Very recently, somebody did have a go at a picture and I think what happened was the attendant went and launched themselves at them and so did members of the public.“I think it was an instinctive reaction. You wouldn’t say to somebody, put yourself in danger. But actually instinctively what happens is that the room wardens get so protective over paintings, and the members of public love them so much, that they don’t want members of the public attacking them.“The public sometimes are the greatest defenders of the work of art. It’s happened twice now it’s been the public which has protected a work of art.
Ant McPartlin, who revealed he had become addicted to the Class C opiate-based painkiller tramadol Credit:Serena Taylor Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. In 2014, a study found that the risk of taking strong painkillers containing codeine and other opioids for headaches and backache outweighed the benefits.The American Academy of Neurology said studies showed that half of patients taking opioids for at least three months were still on them five years later.Tramadol was linked to 33 deaths in Northern Ireland in 2015 – more than heroin and cocaine combined.Harry Shapiro of the DrugWise information service has addiction to prescription painkillers a “public health disaster hidden in plain sight”. Dr Cathy Stannard, a specialist in pain management, said it was clear that patients who used opioid drugs for a long time often got little benefit, but suffered all the side-effects.”I am not suggesting somebody who is benefiting has their drugs removed,” she said.”But out of a population who are taking these drugs, the majority are not benefiting and they should be supported to come off these medicines.”The report found that two-thirds of patients prescribed the painkillers, known as Dependence Forming Medicines, were female.Older patients, and those living in the West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber were more likely to be prescribed the drugs long term.DFM prescriptions were found to be more common in patients with a cancer or epilepsy diagnosis than in patients without such a diagnosis.The report concluded: “A balance needs to be struck between, on the one hand, ensuring proper access to medicines to relieve suffering and to treat disorders while, on the other hand, avoiding prescribing that might cause harms such as dependence.“The large increase in opioid prescribing needs careful tracking to ensure appropriate prescribing is preserved while, at the same time, caution is exercised to avoid ill-considered long-term prescribing without continuing benefit.” The use of powerful prescription painkillers has doubled in the last 15 years, according to a report by public health experts.One in 20 people in England is now prescribed potentially addictive opioid painkillers such as codeine and tramadol, the study found.Such drugs are also being prescribed for longer periods of time, which can reduce the benefits and make addiction more likely.The Public Health Research Consortium studied data from 50,000 NHS patients, focusing on those who were prescribed at least one of four types of potentially addictive drugs between 2000 and 2015.In 2015, five per cent of patients were said to be receiving regular prescriptions, double the rate in 2000.Neil Smith, research director at the National Centre for Social Research, told the BBC: “This report highlights that a balance needs to be struck between avoiding prescribing that might lead to dependence or other harms and ensuring proper access to medicines to relieve suffering and treat disorders.”Trends in the extent and duration of opioid prescribing… need close and ongoing monitoring.” Nearly a third of all prescriptions for opiate painkillers across the EU are written in the UK, according to evidence produced last November at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence.
Bishop confesses his motoring sins in front of the Queen at SandringhamBishop confesses his motoring sins in front of the Queen at Sandringham
The Queen who was dressed in a sky blue coat and matching hat appeared in good spirits as she arrived in her maroon-coloured Bentley at the 16th century church.She paused to smile and wave at a crowd of 200 people before climbing the steps to the churchyard.Prince Philip, 96, who was wearing his regular brown overcoat walked 400 yards from Sandringham House in the winter sunshine to attend the service. Princess Anne joins the family at churchCredit:PA Julian Henderson, the Bishop of Blackburn, leaving St Mary Magdalene Church Credit:Geoff Robinson Prince Philip walked back from the church deep in conversation with Princess Anne, at the head of the procession of guests returning to Sandringham House for lunch.Sir Tim Laurence walked a few paces behind, greeting members of the crowd who wished him good morning.He also commented on the sunny weather, telling one well-wisher: “I hope you are not sunburnt.” The Queen heard a visiting bishop confess to speeding in his car, as she attended Sunday church service with her family. The Bishop of Blackburn, the Right Rev Julian Henderson, confessed his motoring sin during his sermon at St Mary Magdalene church in Sandringham, in front of a congregation including Prince Philip and Princess Anne. The Bishop was preaching about the supreme authority of Jesus and comparing it to the authority of other leaders and even objects such as speed cameras.He admitted being caught speeding by a camera last year and having to attend a speed awareness course to avoid getting points on his licence.The congregation giggled as he described sitting in a room with 20 other shamed offenders, only for one of them to recognise him and “smile knowingly”. Princess Anne, who was wearing a brown cape coat with a fur trim, also walked to the church with her husband Sir Timothy Laurence, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and other house guests at Sandringham. Prince Philip strolls to churchCredit:PA The service which was broadcast on loudspeakers to the crowd outside in a paddock area began with the singing of the National Anthem.Sandringham rector the Rev Canon Jonathan Riviere offered prayers for the Queen and all members of the Royal family “as they fulfil their service among us” The Queen is a keen driverCredit:Northpix He also prayed for “peace throughout the world”, singling out Iraq, Syria and Yemen as “places where there is so much violence and suffering”.Further prayers were said for local schools, the lonely and sick, church leaders and “all refugees and those forced from their homes for whatever reason”. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
Meghan Markle baptised by Archbishop of Canterbury ahead of wedding to PrinceMeghan Markle baptised by Archbishop of Canterbury ahead of wedding to Prince
The Daily Mail reported that her confirmation followed, meaning she can join the Prince, 33, at Holy Communion if she desired. The water that was used for the baptism was said to have come from the Royal Family font. The Duchess of Cambridge is also baptised but had a private confirmation after her engagement to Prince William.The Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace was the setting for Prince George’s christening, and was the location of where Princess Diana’s body lay before her funeral. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is said to have performed the baptismCredit:MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH /REUTERS Meghan Markle has reportedly been baptised by the Archbishop of Canterbury using holy water from the River Jordan ahead of her wedding to Prince Harry.The couple were joined at what was described as an “intimate service” by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, in a move that formally introduces the divorced American actress to the Anglican church.Prince Harry and Ms Markle, 36, will wed on May 19 this year at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. However the baptism, which is understood to have taken place on Tuesday at the Chapel Royal, was said to be a much more private affair, according to the Daily Mail, with only royal aides in attendance too.Kensington Palace declined to comment but reports earlier this week suggested Ms Markle’s baptism was due to take place this month. She attended a Catholic school in Los Angeles but is Protestant.It was claimed that Ms Markle requested Justin Welby, 62, to lead the service having formed close ties with him during her time in the UK. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.